Vol. VIII No. 11 - Tuesday
March 17 - March 23, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Police target illegally imported ‘big bikes’

Worldwide petition launched on Burma Human Rights Day

Mae Hong Son smog forces Thai Air flight schedule cancellation

New CM malls - CRC out, ECC’s Promenada in

Motorcycle gang arrested

Provincial governors’ reshuffle aims to reduce Thaksin influence

Small, bored boy swallows pin during national anthem

French Secretary of State for Human Rights visits Chiang Mai

 

Police target illegally imported ‘big bikes’

Saksit Meesubkwang
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

CMM reporters
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

Khajohn Boonpath
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 much-needed.
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 result.
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

CMM reporters
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

Saksit Meesubkwang
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 robbed them.
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 province.
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

CMM reporters
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.

Saksit Meesubkwang
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

CMM reporters
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 Piromya.
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.



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