NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Gay Pride march halted by red shirt militants

Psychotic serial killer arrested in Mae Hong Son

EGAT loses pollution lawsuit - heavy damages awarded to plaintiffs

Drug dealer killed, two officers wounded in shootout

Thick smog affects visibility at Lampang airport

Jimmy Carter to join Habitat for Humanity’s Chiang Mai build

 

Gay Pride march halted by red shirt militants

Demonstrators hold placards bearing anti-gay slogans
and shout abuse at the parade participants.

A number of gays and lesbians meditated and held a silent vigil
outside Wat U-Pakut as the protests went on around them.

CMM Reporters
Militant action by 200 Rak Chiang Mai 51 activists, led by Phetchawat Rattanaphongsirikul, brought the proposed Chiang Mai Gay Pride March to a halt on Saturday evening February 21 only minutes before it was due to start.
The parade had been scheduled to begin at the Saeng Tawan intersection, having first assembled at Buddha Sathan, and to continue along Chang Klan Road, finishing at Tawan Trendy Centre, where a party and other activities were to be held, including displays set up by HIV/Aids prevention NGOs.
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Despite reassurances that the parade would be allowed by both the local authorities and the police, by 4.30 p.m. the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group, many masked and all wearing red, had gathered outside the forecourt at Buddha Sathan, where 20 of the mainly Thai organisers of the gay parade had already assembled. The activists surrounded the compound, shouting abuse and homophobic comments and refusing entry to other participants.
Approximately 80 police were on the perimeter of the compound, attempting to keep order. Within the compound, an expat family including 5 children, all costumed for the parade, were threatened by the activists, who threw water containing cactus spines over the group, causing pain and irritation.
According to Rak Chiang Mai 51 members, the Gay Pride parade had been organised by local gay group Mplus with the intention of denigrating and harming the culture, history and Lanna heritage of the beautiful city of Chiang Mai. They stated that any such event should be permanently banned from taking place in the city.
Tempers continued to run high for several hours, although the presence of a large number of police prevented a major escalation. Participants in the parade who had assembled in Buddha Sathan were prevented from leaving the forecourt by the red-shirted activists.
Finally, Phetchawat and five core leaders of the group entered the forecourt and called for an end to the parade and an apology from the organisers. Having no option, as the parade had not been allowed to leave the area, and fearing a violent outcome if they refused, the organisers accepted Rak Chiang Mai 51’s terms, cancelled the parade, and apologised. A request was made to police to ensure the gay group’s safe dispersal to their homes.
Pongthorn Chanlearn, one of the parade’s organisers, said, “This is the first time that conservative groups have attacked gay people - they say they are fighting for democracy. This is not democratic, this is unfair.” Many sympathisers, both homosexual and heterosexual, including Chiang Mai students, expressed their sadness at the cancellation; with one saying, “This action has set back gay rights, harmed community relations and may have damaged much needed tourism.”
Meanwhile, at Tawan Trendy Mall, the proposed end of the parade, a stage had been set up for a beauty pageant and other entertainments. NGOs working with HIV/Aids, including Cultural Canvas and Mpower, had created displays and information stations aimed at gay men and sex workers. Visitors from all over Thailand, from China and from Burma were present at the mall.
At approximately 5.45 p.m, a small group of about 20 older Rak Chiang Mai 51 activists arrived, and immediately chased a tuk-tuk driver and his decorated vehicle containing foreign passengers from the area. Police prevented the activists from entering the mall itself. A woman who was photographing the activists was threatened - the police intervened, but would not let her continue photographing, although activists were allowed to continue doing so. Shortly afterwards, the organisers were forced by the mall’s owner to take down the stage and all the information and exhibition booths.
The activists continued to shout abuse, stating that the parade had connections with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and that they were protesting in favour of Lanna culture and Buddhism.
At Buddha Sathan, after the parade had been cancelled and the activists had dispersed, a number of gays and lesbians who had been meditating and holding a silent vigil outside Wat U-Pakut, walked into the compound carrying candles. An emotional 2 minutes’ silence was held. The meditators had previously been verbally abused by a group of activists, but had not responded.
At a press conference held the following morning, attended by representatives of 22 local NGOs and other organisations, Kittinan Daramadhaj, president of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, told the Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter that he would like to thank the people of Chiang Mai and Rak Chiang Mai 51 for expressing their opinions, although he did not consider their mode of expressions appropriate. He stated that he did not harbour any anger or contempt for them. He feels this is a case of serious misunderstanding, which has occurred because the Chiang Mai Gay Pride Parade had been misrepresented by certain individuals who may have other agendas, saying that, “When the activists forced the cancellation of the parade, my organisation had to obey, but I consider that being made to apologise under threat is a violation of basic human rights. The Rak Chiang Mai 51 group initially concerned itself purely with political matters, and advocated democracy. However, while the parade was still in the planning stages, their representatives spoke with us many times, but did not listen to or respect our opinions or our human rights and freedom of expression, which I consider they have now violated.”
Kittinan added that, “Chiang Mai is advertised as a city of culture and tourism, however, it seems that, at present, Rak Chiang Mai 51 are controlling everything, even the security of visitors and foreign tourists.”
Director of the parade’s organisers, Mplus’ Pongthorn Chanlearn added that, “What happened has been a huge learning curve for our organisation, and has made apparent the need to further bridge understanding regarding sexual rights and diversity with the general public. During this entire episode, we have received a great deal of support from groups throughout Thailand. As a result, the Sexual Diversity Network and many local organisers have decided to commemorate February 21 annually nationwide in an attempt to promote sexual rights and diversity. A fund has been set up to this effect, which will also be used for legal costs in human rights lawsuits.”
Pongthorn, in conclusion, stated that his group will sit in meditation to spread peace and charity to all, especially Rak Chiang Mai 51 and those who are harming Thailand by their actions.

 

Psychotic serial killer arrested in Mae Hong Son

Khajohn Boonpath
A man was arrested by Mae Hong Son local police on February 25, after it was discovered that he had killed 5 people, including his deaf mother and two other deaf women.
During questioning, Jor U stated, without showing remorse, that he had killed the women because, “he did not like deaf people”. His record showed that, whilst serving in the Burmese Army, he had murdered his commanding officer and fled across the border into Thailand. He also admitted to killing a Pang Moo villager, using a knife.
It was reported that, after the murder of his third female victim, Suay Jing, 40, rumours had circulated about vampires and human flesh-eating zombies, with inhabitants in Mae Hong Son province panicking and being afraid to go out at night.


EGAT loses pollution lawsuit - heavy damages awarded to plaintiffs

Saksit Meesubkwang
Five hundred Lampang-based plaintiffs in a pollution lawsuit brought against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), crowded into Chiang Mai’s Administrative Court on February 25 to hear judgement passed in favour of their claim. The presiding judge, Jeerapat Klomsakul, stated that the respiratory diseases of all plaintiffs in 19 separately filed cases were caused by dispersal operations and leaks of pollutants at EGAT’s lignite mine.
According to the judgement, since 1954 EGAT had operated the mine in a manner that neglected the law, the effects of the mine’s operation on the environment, and the effects of the pollution caused on people in the surrounding communities. Jeerapat noted that quantities of sulphur dioxide at concentrations as high as double the legal limit were released 279 times during a period of 5 years and 7 months. Local residents affected have not yet completely recovered, and will require regular medical attention.
The immediate area has accumulated a significant amount of pollution, which is not yet cleared, and may cause further damage to residents’ health.
The judge ordered that compensation be paid by EGAT to each of the 500 plaintiffs in the amount of 1,000 baht per month, starting from the date the claims were made until the age of 70 years is reached.
A further suit also received a primary ruling from Judge Pornchai Manastsiripen, in that EGAT had seriously infringed the patent permit granted for the lignite mine, thus infringing upon conditions referring to protection of the environment. The infringements included changing mill operations without permission.
Further regulations were breached by EGAT’s refusal to move nearby residents to a safe distance from their operations and the affected area. The judge’s ruling on this was that EGAT be forced to operate within the law as regards relocating residents.
EGAT must also remove polluted soil from the entire area, replacing it with trees. The excavated soil must not be placed upwind of the new residential area, and previously eradicated wetland plants must be re-established. A buffer zone must be set up around the excavated soil, no less than 50 metres away, and a biannual report must be made to the Environmental Audit Office. A final ruling will be made on March 4.
President of the Mae Moh District Patient Rights Group, Prasai Pukpan, stated that a further group from 4 local sub-districts had also filed a claim with the Administrative Court for damages amounting to more than 3 billion baht. The judgement in both cases is being seen as a warning to EGAT and other such organisations to consider carefully their obligations to nearby residents and to comply with the law in all respects in future.


Drug dealer killed, two officers wounded in shootout

Saksit Meesubkwang
A police officer from Wiang Haeng police station and a soldier from the Pha Muang Task Force were shot and wounded by drug dealers during a pre-arranged meeting intended to trap and arrest the dealers. Both men were taken to Maharaj Nakhon hospital, where they were treated and are recovering.

Police Region 5’s Commissioner, Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom visits one of the injured officers in hospital.

Pol. Sgt. Maj. Watcharaphong Sirirsarn and Sgt. Kraising Changthong had contacted the drug dealer and arranged a meeting at Ban Pang Klang in order to purchase a quantity of YaBa pills. A gunfight ensued when the dealer realised he had been tricked, during which Watcharaphong was shot in the leg, and Kraising received a bullet in his left arm.
Subsequently, the body of Arsuepa Laomee, 47, a Chiang Dao resident, was found lying dead next to his motorcycle, with wounds to his chest. A bag containing YaBa pills, an 11mm gun and five bullets were also found near the dead man.
After visiting the injured officers in hospital, Police Region 5’s Commissioner, Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom, stated that, since he had taken up his new position, he had noted that a number of gunshot injuries were being sustained by officers during drugs raids, adding that strict drug suppression and prevention measures must be increased to ensure that this trend is reversed.


Thick smog affects visibility at Lampang airport

Poor visibility caused by the heavy smog has prompted Lampang airport to install special equipment to help improve visibility for pilots, according to a senior airport official.
Airport director Siripong Krungwong said Lampang’s dense smog has reduced visibility to only 10 kilometres making it difficult for take-offs and landings. Normally, a pilot should be able to see the runway from a 20-30 kilometre distance.
The control tower has installed special communications equipment to alert pilots about the airport’s location and provide landing directions, Krungwong said. Airfield ground lighting services are now in full operation to ensure aviation safety.
Meanwhile, Surapoj Kajjanasingh, director of the Lampang conservation administration area, said more than 200 hot spots have been found in the past three weeks. Bush fires set by villagers combined with scorching weather to send a thick haze covering most of the province. As the level of dust particles exceeded safety limits for the second day last week, the authorities urged the public to stop burning activities in the forest and open areas.
In Chiang Mai itself there were no reports of any flight interruptions, according to airport director Chaturongkapol Sodmanee. He said the thick smog did not cause any visibility problem for the pilots and flights continued normally.
The provincial chief of public health however has asked people with respiratory problems, children and the elderly to stay indoors due to concerns of health issues caused by poor air quality. (TNA)


Jimmy Carter to join Habitat for Humanity’s Chiang Mai build

(From left) Shannon Morrow, wife of Michael Morrow, Michael Morrow, US Consul General, Chiang Mai, Sombat Kuen Kaew, sub-district chief, Chuchard Keelapaeng, deputy governor of Chiang Mai province, Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, Habitat for Humanity Thailand, Eric John, US Ambassador to Thailand, and his wife Sofia are the first to break ground at the Habitat for Humanity build site in Chiang Mai.

Children from Maung Len sub-district, Chiang Mai, where the main site of the Mekong Build 2009 will take place, perform at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Elena Edwards
Habitat for Humanity announced recently that its annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project would be coming to Thailand for the first time since its inception in 1984, as a result of its continuing quest to address poverty housing in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project event takes place in a different location every year, and has so far provided homes for over 10,000 people in the US, Canada, Mexico, Hungary, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines and India.
A site at Moo Baan Nong Kan Kru in Chiang Mai has been chosen for the project’s “Mekong Build” initiative, and will serve as the main host and anchor to a five-country event with additional builds taking place in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Yunnan Province of China. The ‘Mekong Build’ is a 3-year campaign that will enable thousands of needy families in the Mekong region to have decent shelter.
A ground-breaking ceremony took place on February 20 at the Chiang Mai site, in order to begin preparing the land and foundations for an intensive 5-day housing construction activity in November this year. Handling the shovels at the auspicious event were Chuchard Keelapaeng, deputy governor of Chiang Mai province, Eric John, US Ambassador to Thailand, and his wife Sophia, and Michael and Shannon Morrow, the US Consul General and his wife. Also helping to dig were Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, chairman of Habitat for Humanity Thailand and a member of Habitat’s international board, and Richard Hathaway, Asia-Pacific vice president for Habitat for Humanity International.
Former US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, will join the Chiang Mai local community, international celebrities and a total of approximately 3,000 volunteers from Thailand and around the world to build 82 homes to commemorate HM the King’s 82nd birthday, which will be celebrated on December 5. The houses will serve as decent homes for 82 low-income families in the area.
According to Dr. Chainarong, ‘Thailand’s National Housing Authority estimates that nearly 8.2 million people live in sub-standard housing. Their homes are made of flimsy materials, they lack adequate shelter from the rain and sun, they have no proper water and sanitation facilities and they cannot protect themselves from intruders. This affects their health, their children’s education and their abilities to earn a living and improve their quality of life.’
As with every other Carter Work Project, the event taking place between November 15-20 is expected to bring more attention to the problem of poverty housing – not only Thailand, but also elsewhere in the region – with the hope that it will serve as a catalyst in influencing more individuals and donors to take action in building more homes for the less fortunate.
The registration fee to participate as a building volunteer during the event is $1,700 for international volunteers and $1,000 for Thai citizens. This includes accommodation, transportation within Chiang Mai and all meals during the 5-day building event. It also includes a donation to the local program to continue to build more houses in partnership with families in need. The fee for Thai citizens living in Chiang Mai not requiring accommodation will be less. Apart from becoming a build volunteer, anyone can participate in this effort by any amount of donation in cash or kind. Volunteers who are able to assist with logistics and translation to welcome and support the international volunteers will be warmly welcomed.
For further information, please contact Habitat for Humanity International on 026-320-415, ex. 5305, or visit the website on www.habitat.org/ap.