NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Elephants find warmth at jumbo camp fires

Troops and police destroy local opium plantations

PM feels kinship with Obama’s “politics of hope”

UK expat found murdered in Chiang Mai, house looted

David Crisp - an Obituary

Anti-bird flu campaign involves poultry producers in 8 provinces

Labour minister scraps rice social security programme

New criminal information centre to be set up

Bahrain students visit Northern Thailand on charity trip

US high school holds volleyball marathon to aid Chiang Rai orphanage

British Ambassador to Thailand makes busy visit to Chiang Mai

 

Elephants find warmth at jumbo camp fires

Extreme cold causes problems for mahouts and their charges

Saksit Meesubkwang
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 difficulties.
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 temperature significantly.
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.

CMM reporters
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”

Ambika Ahuja
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.

Prime 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 problems.”
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 drowned.
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

CMM reporters
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 his house.
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

David Brown
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 Crisp

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 later.
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 successful.
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 works.
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 cherish.


Anti-bird flu campaign involves poultry producers in 8 provinces

Saksit Meesubkwang
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

CMM reporters
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

CMM Reporters
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 themselves.”


US high school holds volleyball marathon to aid Chiang Rai orphanage

CMM Reporters
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.

Michael Davies
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 Mai.

Ambassador 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 projects.
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 evening.
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.