Police target illegally
imported ‘big bikes’
A press conference held at the Chiang Mai Police’s provincial
headquarters has announced an improved clear-up rate for recently committed
crimes. 12 unlicensed entertainment venues have been closed, strict controls
are being set on opening and closing times at other venues, 13 illegal
gaming machines have been confiscated, and a number of illegally imported
‘big bikes’ have been seized.
Police believe that the illegal importation of big bikes is being controlled
by high-ranking persons with wide-ranging knowledge of how to evade payment
of customs duties.
It is considered that a large number of big bikes in Chiang Mai have been
smuggled into the country to avoid such payments.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Sommai Konwisaisook stated at the press conference that many
owners of big bikes only have purchase invoices, and do not have invoices
that prove import duty was paid. Local police will be inspecting the
documentation of owners and the bike’s chassis/engine serial numbers. If
owners cannot prove that duty was paid, their machines will be seized and
the matter will be referred to the customs department.
No comment was given as regards tracing the retailers or private sellers
from whom the illegally imported big bikes will have been purchased.
Worldwide petition launched on Burma Human Rights Day
On March 13, Burma Human Rights Day, a global signature campaign was
launched by the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) and the Assistance
Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP).
Tate Niang, AAPP director, stated that signatures will be collected both
online and on paper, and will be sent to the UN Secretary-General, Ban
Ki-Moon, together with a letter detailing the importance of the release of
political prisoners in Burma. 116 exiled Burmese and international
solidarity groups are supporting the project, which will run until May 24,
the day on which Aung San Suu Kyi should legally be released after her
6-year period of house arrest.
At the same time, supportive events and activities were launched worldwide,
including in Chiang Mai, where a former political prisoner, Let Let, gave a
talk about her experiences in prison. “I was arrested in September 1998 and
they didn’t notify my parents,” she said.
“I was held at the interrogation centre for two weeks and transferred to
Insein jail. I was then tried without being allowed to hire a lawyer and my
family was not allowed to attend the trial. I was sentenced to 21 years,
transferred to another prison and my family was not notified. I was not
allowed to see my family until eight months later.”
According to an AAPP representative, there are currently 2128 political
prisoners languishing in prisons throughout Burma.
Mae Hong Son smog forces Thai Air flight schedule cancellation
A combination of heavy smog and smoke from nearby forest fires
caused chaos at Mae Hong Son Airport for at least 2 days last week, with
flights delayed for up to 5 hours due to unsafe landing conditions.
According to the chief of the local meteorological station, morning
visibility fell to 1 – 1.5 kilometres, with afternoon visibility slightly
improved at 3 kilometres. Thai Airlines’ visibility standard states a
distance of no less than 6 kilometers; as a result, all Thai Air flights
have been postponed until conditions improve.
At present, wildfires are still burning, particularly in Pai and Pangmapa
districts, both of which are popular with tourists, whose revenue is
Meanwhile, Mae Hong Son’s Public Health Office announced that pollution in
the town still remains above safe levels daily, due mainly to the increase
in forest fires, which are difficult to douse due to the mountainous
terrain. Residents are suffering from eye and respiratory inflammation as a
Real-time measurements suggest that the concentration of particles in the
air has reached as high as 200 microgrammes/cubic metre. The office’s Deputy
Physician is advising that, as human nasal hairs cannot filter out the tiny
particles, precautions should be taken, particularly by those who have a
history of allergies or respiratory problems. Young children and older
people should also take more care.
Suggested preventative measures include using a wet cloth to cover the mouth
and nose; reducing work and outdoor activities, particularly if allergies,
asthma or respiratory disease is already present. If symptoms increase,
visit a doctor or hospital immediately; do not smoke or drink when high
levels of pollution are present, avoid exercise and labour-intensive work,
and do not, under any circumstances, burn rubbish or start fires.
New CM malls - CRC out,
ECC’s Promenada in
The Dutch retail developer, ECC Group, has announced plans to build
a major shopping mall in Chiang Mai at a cost of approximately US$90
million, just weeks after another developer, CRC, mothballed its Chiang Mai
and Chiang Rai projects for 2 years due to the world economic crisis.
The development, Promenada, will be located on Ban Sahakorn Road, and will
comprise a total of 75,000 square metres of retail space. Features will
include a department store and a street mall featuring blended branded and
local products, aimed at the upper-middle market.
ECC’s chairman, Dion Heijmans, stated that, “Revenue from shopping malls in
Asia is forecast to grow by over 10% per annum, against a growth of 4-5% in
Europe. Land prices in Thailand are projected to fall by 10-15%, and
construction costs have fallen, making this a good time to invest.”
Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of the year, with a completion
date in the final quarter of 2011. The Chiang Mai project will be the
company’s first in Thailand; if it proves successful, an entry into the
Bangkok market will be considered.
Motorcycle gang arrested
A press release recently issued at Chang Puak police station
announced that a gang of Akha robbers from Chiang Rai had been detained
following an attack on a motorcyclist and his passenger in the early hours
of March 4.
Satit Sukkasem and Chaipat Chanfong were travelling along Hasadeesaewee Road
in Chang Puak when they were attacked by the gang of 7 youths, riding 3
motorcycles. The gang caused the pair to crash, then threatened, injured and
Subsequently, police raided a rented house located behind Wat Suan Dok and
arrested Chatchai Tharasaksit (19), Tanakorn Chaermue (19), and Apo Mayer,
all of whom were members of the Akha hill tribe from Mae Salong, Chiang Rai
Evidence, including 2 cell phones, 1 bag, and some cash, was seized. A
search for the remaining 4 members of the gang is ongoing.
On being questioned, the three gang members stated that they had no
permanent employment, and that the proceeds from their crimes were split
between them and used to buy cell phones and hi-fi equipment.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Sommai Krongwisaisuk, (Commander of the Chiang Mai Police),
stated that, since the recent rape and murder of the Mae Jo student,
residents had felt unsafe, and that he has personally patrolled his area of
responsibility nearly every night since he took up his position. He added
that, if local police were not up to the job of protecting the public, they
would be immediately transferred.
Provincial governors’ reshuffle aims to reduce Thaksin influence
The Thai cabinet recently approved a reshuffle of 28
high-ranking officials, including the governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun
Sa-nguanpong, who will be replaced by the present Lamphun governor
Amornphan Nimanant. Former governor Wibun will take up the position of
Deputy Interior Permanent Secretary.
Previous to his appointment as governor of Lamphun, Amornphan held the
position of governor of Chiang Rai, served from 1998 as the deputy
governor in Mae Hong Son province and was a former member of the
Thai/Burma Border Command Centre. He is known to have close ties with
Democrat executives, and with Newin Chidchob, formerly a cabinet
minister in Thaksin Shinawatra’s government and now head of the Friends
of Newin faction, which pledged its support to the present PM Abhisit in
December last year, thus assuring him of a parliamentary majority.
Other provinces whose governors have been replaced include Lampang,
Chiang Rai, Phitsanulok, Khon Kaen and the majority of the north eastern
provinces, five central provinces including Rayong and Ayutthaya, plus
the three southern provinces of Phuket, Phatthalung and Satun. The moves
are reported to have been instigated as an attempt to reduce the
influence of ex-PM Thaksin.
Small, bored boy swallows pin during national anthem
This hospital x-ray shows the pin lodged in
the upper region of the young boy’s abdomen.
An 11 year-old boy from Mae Lanoi district in Mae Hong Son, who
had accidentally swallowed a pin 5 days previously after placing it in
his mouth, was recently transferred to Chiang Mai’s Nakornping Hospital
for surgery as local Mae Hong Son hospitals were not equipped to
operate. Apparently, the child had become bored during the school’s
morning singing of the Thai national anthem, and was playing with the
pin in his mouth.
Nakornping Hospital surgeon, Dr Amornchai Kritnikornkul, told reporters
that the pin had lodged in the child’s small intestine, with blood
showing in his excrement, and that an operation was necessary in order
to remove the pin.
French Secretary of State for Human Rights visits Chiang Mai
The French Secretary of State for Human Rights, Rama Yade,
visited Chiang Mai last week as part of a 3-day trip to Thailand, during
which the situation in Burma, plus economic, political, cultural and
regional issues were discussed with Thailand’s Foreign Minister, Kasit
Whilst in Thailand, Secretary of State Yade also visited the Ban Mai Nai
Soi refugee camp on the northern Thai/ Burmese border. Ban Mai Nai Soi
holds approximately 20,000 Burmese refugees and Yade is seeking
cooperation between the Thai government and major aid donors in order to
ensure the refugees’ continued wellbeing. The visit was also scheduled
to allow Yade to meet up with Thai human rights defenders.
During her brief time in Chiang Mai, Yade visited a local hospital which
specialises in HIV/Aids treatment, at which a project headed up by the
French Institute for Research and Development is studying virus
transmission from mother to child.