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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The ‘Rose of the North’ celebrates with thousands of flowers

‘Red shirt’ demonstrators disrupt traffic and Flower Festival

Mae Jo university student raped and murdered

Shan State Army celebrates its 62nd anniversary

New Shopping Mall delayed due to economic situation

Cobra Gold joint training exercise includes robotics

Migrant workers raided after rape and murder of Mae Jo University student

High-risk burning continues as villagers set fires in forests

Protesting maize farmers cause Lampang gridlock

 

The ‘Rose of the North’ celebrates with thousands of flowers

One of the many fantastically decorated floats on show.

Locals in traditional Lanna costume parade in front of the floats.

Even the bicycles got their own floral tributes.

CMM Reporters
The 33rd Chiang Mai Flower Festival was opened on February 6 by Chiang Mai Governor, Wibun Sa-nguanpong, in front of thousands of people who had gathered to view the beauty of the cool season’s flowers in the city known as the ‘Rose of the North.’
The highlight of the festival, as always, was the parade of floats decorated with thousands of flowers, winding its spectacular way on the morning of February 7 from Narawat Bridge, past Thapae Gate and along the moat road, ending at Buat Had Park at midday. Twenty-three gorgeous floats took part, with the first prize for the most beautiful (granted by HRH Princess Sirindhorn), being won by the famous Doi Saket-based soothsayer, Warin Buawiratlert, whose float was graced by two beauty queens and a famous actor.
The Beauty Pageant, ‘Miss International Flower Queen,’ always a part of the festival, attracted 20 contestants from 15 countries, with all of the contestants wearing traditional Lanna costume and greeting the judges with a ‘wai.’ If a contestant could speak the northern Thai language, she was awarded extra points. A 20 year old Swedish contestant, Maya Rodtien, won the title. We wonder if she thanked the judges in northern Thai…

 

‘Red shirt’ demonstrators disrupt traffic and Flower Festival

CMM Reporters
Some 3,000 pro-Thaksin red-shirted demonstrators from Rak Chiang Mai 51, Rak Lamphun 51 and Rak Lampang 51 disrupted traffic and caused major inconvenience to both residents and visitors to the Flower Festival on its last day, Sunday February 8.

Red shirted demonstrators march through the city centre, causing disruption to the Chiang Mai Flower Festival parade.
The demonstrators, on foot and in vehicles, paraded around the moat road for some hours in protest against the government of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, carrying banners written in both Thai and English urging that the government be forced to resign.
Later, on Thursday February 12, a rally was held outside Chiang Mai Railway Station by three breakaway groups, Chiang Mai for Democracy, Chiang Mai Liberals, and Rak Thaksin, who had left Rak Chiang Mai 51 due to conflicts of opinion. A violent clash broke out when members of the original group attacked the protestors, injuring 5 demonstrators from the new groups. Mae Ping police station’s deputy chief, Pol. Lt. Col. Samphan Sirima, said the attackers and the injured used to be allies and worked together.


Mae Jo university student raped and murdered

Mae Jo University students submit a petition to Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Phairoj Saengphuwong (left) calling for stricter controls of the Burmese migrants employed for construction work in Chiang Mai, following the rape and murder of university student Wialairat Kuchaphant.

Saksit Meesubkwang
A third year female student, Wirairat Kujapan, 22, was found dead in her dormitory room at 10.30 a.m. February 8, having been raped and suffocated some 8 hours earlier. Her dormitory was situated next to a temporary lodging area for Burmese workers.
According to a friend resident in the same dormitory building, Wirairat had visited her room the previous evening to return some lecture notes, and had taken a bath and changed into her nightwear before returning to her own room. Unable to contact her the following morning, her friend alerted the dormitory maid, who unlocked Wirairat’s door and found the murdered girl lying on her bed, wrapped in a pink blanket.

Police arrested a Burmese migrant worker in connection with the murder.
When police inspected the crime scene, they found that slats in a bathroom louvre window had been removed to allow access to the room. On searching the migrant workers’ accommodation, a blanket with blood stains was found in a room belonging to a young Burmese man, Jaimuek, who had been working on the campus for 1 month, and had not been seen since the time of the murder. Police apprehended the suspect at the Arcade Bus Station later that day and arrested him. During questioning, Jaimuek admitted the rape and murder and named another migrant worker, Nui, who had committed the crime with him.
Parents and relatives of the murdered girl visited the crime scene and invited monks to pray for her, in order to comfort her and lead her spirit back home to Isaan’s Loei province.
Her friends and other students shared in the family’s grief at the dormitory and expressed wishes that their friend and fellow-student should rest in peace. A representative of the construction company donated 50,000 baht to the bereaved family. Students resident in Wirairat’s dormitory building also donated 5,000 baht. Wirairat’s friend told the press that the girl had no boyfriend, and was diligent in her studies, as she had been determined to earn her bachelor’s degree as a gift to her parents and family.
After being told of the crime, 2,000 Mae Jo University students gathered in protest, demanding that the workers’ accommodation be removed immediately. The company which had hired the migrant workers eventually agreed that the camp would be removed February 10. The president of the university’s student union and 20 students have appealed to the deputy Chiang Mai governor to ensure that all migrant workers behave according to Thai law, reporting at the same time that previous violence had occurred involving Burmese labourers resident on the campus. The group also urged employers to consider safety matters as well as cost of labour when they hire construction workers.
The deputy governor stated in reply that the issue needed the involvement of all interested parties including police, immigration and construction companies, adding that it should be raised as a national agenda in which an effective policy concerning illegal migrant labourers should be issued and reinforced.


Shan State Army celebrates its 62nd anniversary

Khajohn Boonpath
On February 7, at its base in on Tai Laeng mountain, the Shan State Army celebrated the 62nd anniversary of its founding, led by its leader, Col. Yawdse. The celebrations were attended by 1,500 soldiers and Shan State citizens. February 7, 1927, at which time Burma was a British colony, marked the first day in which the colonised Shan people fought against the occupying British Army.
This year’s celebration included a parade of 1000 soldiers in new uniforms, specially selected from the up to 7,000 military who patrol the Shan State, many of whom are stationed along the border with Thailand.
The Burmese military junta has long focused on the Shan peoples as a main target for suppression, supposedly in accordance with its so-called ‘roadmap for democracy,’ now discredited by major Western democracies. The regime is now concentrating on all armed resistance to its governance since its failure to suppress the Red Wa.
At the same time, the Junta’s PM, Gen Thein Sein and his crew visited a Burmese army unit stationed in Loikaw province, the capital city of Kayah state, and 2 villages, all of which are strongholds of the Karenni National Progressive Party. The group went on to visit another Burmese army unit stationed close to the border with Mae Hong Son province, and also visited Hua Muang, at which location the Burmese army confronts the nearby Shan State Army base on Tai Laeng mountain.


New Shopping Mall delayed due to economic situation

CMM Reporters
Two major shopping mall developments in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are being mothballed by the property development company Central Group, who are citing the deteriorating economic climate as the reason.
A company executive has stated publicly that, although the cost of construction has fallen due to a reduction in the price of raw materials, consumer confidence and purchasing power is expected to decline still further, thus forcing the company’s decision. The decline in the numbers of international tourists visiting the cities is a further cause for concern. However, the company states it still committed to both projects.
The new Chiang Mai Central Plaza Shopping Mall will eventually be built, at a cost of around 5 billion baht, on 70 rai of ground adjacent to the superhighway at the Doi Saket Road junction. The complex will contain a Central department store, Tops Market, Power Buy, Super Sports, a fitness centre and more than 200 retail outlets, and will employ approximately 4,000 people.


Cobra Gold joint training exercise includes robotics

Thai and U.S. soldiers look at the display of a robot called ‘Big Dog’ during the opening ceremony of the Cobra Gold military exercise.
(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

USArmy News Service
This year’s Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand includes robotic operations, led by 2 engineers from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre. Eng. Lonnie Freiburger and Electrical Eng. Jeremy Gray from TARDEC’s Intelligent Ground Systems Mission Payload Integration Team based in Detroit, are in Thailand especially for the exercise.
The IGS duo will lead robotics for iRobot and Autonomous Solutions Incorporated systems, which are under contract to support the Cobra Gold Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise project. ASI will be evaluating the CHAOS™and iRobot will demonstrate the Warrior™700.
The CHAOS robotic platform is designed to remotely access hazardous areas previously accessible only by foot, thereby reducing the risk to soldiers. CHAOS is able to navigate over extremely rough, steep and loose terrain. The iRobot’s Warrior is designed to travel over rough terrain and climb stairs while performing a variety of critical mission tasks.
According to Freiburger, the test results in Thailand will be reported to the US Army’s Soldier Battle Lab at Fort Benning. He added that the data will be used for future war fighter experiments. Freiburger and Gray will operate their robots through several scenarios during the Cobra Gold exercise, ranging from routine security and tactical logistical supply to mass casualty extraction and area security operations.


Migrant workers raided after rape and murder of Mae Jo University student

CMM Reporters
Following the rape and murder of a Mae Jo University student, after which 2 Burmese migrant workers were arrested and a demonstration was held demanding that all migrant workers be driven out of Thailand, police and local troops arrested more than 200 migrant workers in several Chiang Mai districts.
The raids were carried out at Land and House, the Kanjanood workers’ camp in Doi Saket, in Huey Sai and in Mae Jo itself, where the rape and murder took place. According to a migrant worker, the raids were unlike those carried out previously, in that violence was used by police and troops, with shots being fired at workers who tried to escape.
No reason was given for the raids, although local authorities claim they are cracking down on illegal workers, and reports state that more raids are taking place, with re-arrests at the Doi Saket camp. Migrant workers are also reporting that they have been sacked from their jobs, or that they are now finding it difficult to obtain employment.
Of the workers originally arrested, those who could show labour registration documents were allowed to go free.


High-risk burning continues as villagers set fires in forests

Khajohn Boonpath
Pollution is increasing in Chiang Mai as the temperature rises and the land dries out, due to villagers continuing to light fires in forest areas.
The fires, many of which burn out of control, are being lit to clear land of leaf and other debris. Fire prevention officers seem unable to find the perpetrators, and are only able to post warning signs. As a result, pollution is increasing as the areas of forest being burned grow larger, and the situation is expected to worsen as the dry season progresses. Many fires are set during the dry season due a mistaken belief that burning encourages the growth of Melienth suavis Pierre, a valuable species of orchid.
Parchon Paratsakul, Chiang Mai’s chief of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office, has stated that provincial districts have already been ordered to identify areas at particular risk of drought, expected to occur earlier this year, and to make preparations, to support those affected.
Reservoirs in the Chiang Mai area are already either at critical point or have only medium or low water levels, with Doi Saket’s Mae Kuang Udomthara reservoir at only 36% of capacity, although the reservoir at Mae-Ngad Somboonchon dam in Mae Tang is still at 90%. The provincial administration is requested that all districts conserve water resources until the rainy season sets in.
Meanwhile, in Mae Hong Son, local fire-fighting units are preparing fire barriers across 4,500 rai of forest in preparation for what they fear will be a severe increase of wildfires in the coming months. To date, the unit has constructed barriers stretching for 50 kilometres, with another 50 kilometres yet to be covered. The barriers will cover the total area, located within the Pai River basin.


Protesting maize farmers cause Lampang gridlock

Traffic comes to a standstill as farmers block
the highway between Lampang and Tak.

Tempers flared as motorists travelling recently between Lampang and Tak province nearly clashed with protesting maize farmers who blocked a section of a northern highway and paralysed traffic. The farmers were demanding that the government assist them financially as maize prices continued to decline.
Over 100 maize farmers blocked the highway by parking more than 20 heavy trucks and pick-up trucks on both sides of the road. Strewing their corn-cobs on the road as a gesture of protest, the farmers demanded the government assist them by shoring up prices.
Traffic was unable to move due to the protest, upsetting drivers, who shouted at the protesters. Abusive words filled the air, but government representatives stepped in before tempers erupted into physical rather than verbal violence. Frustrated travellers were helped by a large group of soldiers en route to duty in the South, who forcefully moved a parked car belonging to a protestor so that the trapped drivers could make a U-turn and continue their journeys. A number of cars succeeded in making the turn, until protesters blocked another part of the road to prevent vehicles from turning back.
A gridlock was formed, with travellers trapped, resulting in a tense situation.
Later in the day, provincial authorities, called to defuse the situation, agreed to work on the farmers’ demands, causing the protest to disperse. However, the farmers stated that, if their demands were not met, the protest would be re-established.
Meanwhile, cassava growers in Phitsanulok blocked a major road for 4 hours in protest at the lack of payment for crops delivered to a processing factory. The factory had refused to accept a warehouse receipt as it did not conform with the requirements of a legal agreement, resulting in there being no guarantee of payment in line with the regulations. Negotiations between the Uttaradit governor and the growers resulted in the local agricultural office agreeing to issue a depository receipt to replace the warehouse receipt. A long-term solution to the problem will be discussed at a later date. (TNA)