Bangkok court ruling forces resignation of Chiang Mai’s popular Mayor
It has been announced that the Supreme Administrative Court in
Bangkok has endorsed a decision handed down by the Chiang Mai Electoral
Commission in 2007, resulting in the disqualification of the Mayor of Chiang
Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai. The reason given is that she failed to
provide valid proof of residence in the city prior to her election. The
court rejected a building tax receipt provided by Dr Duentemduang as
evidence of her residency.
Dr. Duentemduang resigned from her position on Friday, April 3; ongoing
projects for the benefit of the city and its residents initiated by her
administration will now be mothballed. An election for the post of Mayor of
Chiang Mai will be held within 45 days.
During the run-up to the 2007 mayoral election (triggered by the sudden
resignation of the then Mayor and Thai Rak Thai member, Boonlert
Buranakuporn) an attempt was made to disqualify Dr. Duentemduang from
running for office as an Independent against former mayor Boonlert and a
number of other candidates, based on her lack of residency and other
charges. The accusations were presented to the Provincial Electoral
Commission, who upheld them.
The decision resulted in Dr. Duentemduang, filing a complaint against the
Provincial Electoral Commission to the Chiang Mai Administrative Court and
continuing to run for office as she was entitled, prior to the result of her
appeal. Judgement on her appeal was still pending after Dr. Duentemduang’s
landslide election victory on June 25, 2007, during which she received
24,204 votes, against 17,570 for former mayor Boonlert, her closest rival.
Total turnout for the election was estimated at approximately 60% of those
eligible to vote.
Her appointment as Mayor of Chiang Mai, however, was declared as conditional
on the result of her appeal against the Provincial Electoral Commission.
Subsequently, in August 22, Dr. Duentemduang was cleared at the Chiang Mai
Administrative Court of all charges brought against her by the Electoral
Commission. The decision allowed her to continue with the business of the
city. However, the Electoral Commission made it clear that they would
continue to seek her disqualification, and filed a further appeal with the
Supreme Administrative Court in Bangkok, which has finally resulted in Dr.
Duentemduang’s disqualification and the resultant Municipality power vacuum
at this crucial time in the city’s history.
In a statement to the press, Dr. Duentemduang said that she accepted the
court’s decision, and hoped that such judgements would become the norm
throughout the kingdom, adding that, during her term of office, she had
strictly followed the relevant rules and regulations, and had initiated many
projects which had benefited the city and its residents.
“I am confident that all the work during my term has been obviously
acceptable, particularly the flood protection plans, the solution of the
severe pollution problems in the Mae Kha canal and the Municipality’s
efforts concerning the ongoing smog and air pollution issues in the city.”
She wished her team well regarding the administration of the upcoming
Songkran celebrations, and confirmed that she would run for re-election in
the hope that she would be able to continue her work for the city as
Dr. Duentemduang is noted amongst the expat community in the Chiang Mai for
her encouragement of integration between Thai and farang residents,
referring often in public to her belief that all residents are khon Chiang
Mai. With the possibility of a new administration following the election, it
is difficult to determine whether these efforts will continue. Dr.
Duentemduang also initiated her innovative ‘Mayor Talks’ held monthly, at
which residents, both Thai and Farang, were welcome to attend in order to
present ideas and address questions directly to her.
For the past two years she has worked closely with her team in emphasising
that everything concerning the Municipality’s actions must be seen to be
above board. She has encouraged a strong sense of the value of culture and
tradition in the city, and has actively promoted cultural, artistic and
Government scraps projected ban on Songkran alcohol sales
The government’s controversial and much-discussed projected
nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol during the upcoming Songkran festival
was scrapped last week due to concern about its effects on an already
battered tourist industry.
The decision was announced by the National Committee for Alcohol
Consumption, along with plans for a new campaign against drink-driving,
after a two hour meeting with other concerned government agencies. During
the meeting, concern had also been expressed that a Songkran alcohol sales
ban would result in increased sales of illegal and unsafe alcoholic
Representatives from the Alcohol Watch Network were disappointed at the
decision, stating that the committee could easily have approved the ban,
which would have reduced road deaths and injuries over the holiday period.
Also announced was a Prime Minister’s Office regulation banning the sale of
alcohol on religious festival days, including Makha Bucha, Visakha Bucha,
Asalaha Bucha and Khao Pansa days.
For details of all the Songkran activites taking place in Chiang Mai, please
turn to page 10.
Cambodian PM downplays clashes on Thai border
A Cambodian soldier uses binoculars to scan the
Thai border area at Preah Vihear temple. Troops from both countries
exchanged gunfire last Friday killing three Thai soldiers and injuring
others. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Koh Sla, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia’s prime minister last
Saturday downplayed the border clashes that killed at least three Thai
soldiers near a disputed 11th century temple as a mere “incident” between
neighbors that would not break out into war with Thailand.
Military commanders from both sides said calm had been restored after last
Friday’s fighting, which saw troops exchange fire with assault rifles and
rocket launchers along Cambodia’s northern border near an 11th century
Thailand acknowledged that three of its soldiers had been killed and 12
wounded. Cambodia said its military suffered no casualties. Cambodia earlier
said as many as four were killed.
“Yesterday there was brief fighting, but the fighting was like neighbors who
live close to each other and always have disputes,” Cambodian Prime Minister
Hun Sen said. “Today they have a dispute, then they soothe things and talk
to each other.”
The border area has been a hot spot since Thailand took offense over
Cambodia having the Preah Vihear temple declared a U.N. World Heritage site
Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple, also claimed by
Thailand, is on Cambodian territory, many Thais still rankle over the
decision. Thailand also maintains claims to nearby land where the fighting
Hun Sen, who just a few days earlier had issued a fierce warning that
Thailand would face tough fighting if its troops crossed into disputed
territory near the temple, struck a conciliatory tone Saturday.
Smiling as he spoke, he described burst of combat as an “incident,” not a
Hun Sen was speaking to several hundred people at a village he established
for disabled army veterans and their families. The sometimes volatile leader
was celebrating his 58th birthday.
He said Friday’s fighting was triggered when Thai soldiers advanced into
heavily mined territory claimed by Cambodia and ignored warnings to turn
back. Thai officials denied any intrusion and said Cambodian troops fired
He emphasized that the fighting left no Cambodian soldiers killed or
wounded, with “not even a scratch.”
Thailand’s deputy regional commander, Maj. Gen. Tawatchai Samutsakorn, said
three of his country’s soldiers were killed - one who died in hospital
Friday night - and 12 wounded.
Cambodian armed forces commander Gen. Pol Saroeun said the situation along
the border was now calm.
“There are no more confrontations, and both sides’ front-line commanders
will have negotiations,” he said.
Leaders in both countries have a history of playing to nationalist sentiment
in sovereignty disputes.
Cambodians are very sensitive to perceived slights by their larger, richer
neighbor Thailand, which many Cambodians see as arrogant.
Domestic political power struggles in Thailand in the past few years have
led to an upsurge of nationalist sentiment that few politicians are willing
to buck and some use for leverage against their rivals.
The tensions erupted in brief border clashes last year, killing two
Cambodian soldiers and one Thai, and both sides have stepped up deployment
of soldiers at the border since then.
American missionaries cause havoc in Changklan Road bars
American missionaries call on local bar owners
and staff at the Changklan Road entertainment area to repent their sins and
turn to Christianity.
During the evening of March 24, a group of 4 American missionaries
invaded the Changklan Road entertainment and sexual services area, shouting
at bar owners, bar girls, customers and passers-by. Their somewhat unsubtly
expressed message was that drinking and using the services of sex workers
would result in hell as a final destination, and that the Lord had ordered
them to spread this message to ensure that all sinners repent.
The group’s speeches continued for almost an hour, during which bar girls,
Thai and foreign bar owners and customers intervened, yelled back and gave
rude hand signals to the missionary group.
When questioned by local reporters, Tony House, the leader of the group and
a former Thai boxer at the Tony Siriprapa Gym, emphasised the group’s good
intentions in attempting to save those fallen into sin by making them aware
of their misconduct and their descent into hell.
Tony stated that before he had found Jesus and become a missionary, he and
his friends had also fallen into sinful ways, and, being lost, were heading
straight for hell themselves. The group, he said, is committed to helping
humanity in Chiang Mai city by encouraging conversion to the Christian
religion, and will continue its visits to Changklan Road until all who work
in or visit the area reform their way of life.
Tony added that Chiang Mai is a cultural city, and should not encourage the
inappropriate pursuits of drinking and prostitution. Officials from the
municipality should make sure that the entertainment areas are closed down,
prohibiting sex tourism and promoting the historical and cultural aspects of
the city instead.
Phrae villagers in revolt as controversial dam project is revived
Feelings are running high in Phrae after the government’s recent
announcement of the resurrection of a controversial local dam-building
project, mothballed for 19 years as a result of massive and continued
successful protests by villagers and the Assembly of the Poor.
The 11 billion baht project, which involves damming Thailand’s last major
free-flowing river, was finally shelved in 1997, along with 4 similar dam
projects elsewhere in the kingdom. A study recently carried out at Mahidol
University has suggested that the building of the Kaeng Sua Ten dam on the
Yom River in Phrae would solve flooding and drought problems in the area.
However, opponents of the project state that communities and over 20,000 rai
of pristine teak forest would be destroyed, and note that other academic
studies, carried out in Thailand and abroad, have suggested that damming the
river is not the correct solution to floods and drought.
Villagers in Sa-iab, located in Phrae’s Song district, adjacent to the
proposed site of the dam, together with members of the Assembly of the Poor,
will mount protests in Bangkok and are demanding to meet with PM Abhisit
Vejjajiva to stress the social and ecological risks associated with the
project. Protest campaigns are being planned for major cities, including
Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Phrae, and residents will prevent surveyors
from visiting the proposed site.
Sa-iab’s village chief has stated that local people will not allow the dam
to be built, and that they are prepared to die to protect the area’s
valuable natural resources for future generations. The project is scheduled
to be completed by 2011.
The Assembly of the Poor was formed in 1995, on International Human Rights
Day, December 10, by villagers affected by the development of the Pak Mun
dam, and became a grassroots people’s movement dedicated to fighting
government projects and decisions which adversely affect the environment and
people’s lives. Seven social networks are involved; the rural poor, farmers,
the urban poor, workers, indigenous peoples and NGO’s.
The organisation is widely supported by community groups, academics and the
general public, and collaborates on regional and international levels with
networks on issues such as globalization, human rights, women, indigenous
peoples, the environment and the protection of biodiversity.
Bookstart project aims to increase reading amongst Thai children
In honour of the birthday last Thursday of HRH Princess Maha
Chakri Sirindhorn - a confirmed book-lover and the author of several
books - the government has announced a project, ‘Bookstart’, which will
declare reading as an important item on the national agenda.
The National Statistics Office’s latest survey, involving 53,000
families countrywide, notes that amongst Thais 6 years of age and
upwards, reading rates have dropped from 69% to 63%, and that the
elderly tend to read only rarely. Bookstart will attempt to encourage
reading and instil good reading habits amongst children.
Regarding the project’s launch, PM Abhisit stated that the launch day
was auspicious due to its link with the Princess’s birthday, and that he
wanted family members to encourage children to read more.
Fierce storms destroy property in Chiang Rai and Ayutthaya
A freak storm battered three Chiang Rai districts a week last
Thursday, causing the roof of a petrol station to collapse, injuring a
villager who was sheltering underneath and crushing 5 petrol pumps and 3
motorcycles. The storm also caused widespread damage to at least 1000
homes, many of which lost their roofs in the high winds. Residents fled
to safe locations, and no further injuries have been reported.
Fierce storms also hit Ayutthaya province, bringing down the restored
remains of a centuries-old temple and damaging property. At Wat Se, the
rebuilt main hall’s wooden support pillars were uprooted by high winds,
causing the entire building to collapse, although the 5 Buddha images it
contained remained undamaged.
Although no injuries were reported, 73 homes were destroyed, with local
authorities providing shelter and relief supplies to those affected.
Restoration of Doi Suthep temple’s famous pagoda nears completion
The unsightly scaffolding at the famous Yod
Chat grand pagoda in Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep should be completely
removed by the end of this month.
It was announced recently by a representative of the Committee
of Reconstruction that essential restoration work, at the famous Yod
Chat grand pagoda in Wat Phra Thart Doi Suthep, which has been ongoing
for the past year, is nearing completion. The removal of scaffolding
around the pagoda is underway at present, and should be completed in
April, allowing visitors and tourists to view the famous stupa in all
Wanlop Namwongprom, public relations officer for the temple’s working
committee, explained that the restorations had involved some 7 metres
from the base to the top of the pagoda, strengthening and tightening its
cement casting by the insertion of a long-lasting aluminium truss,
replacing the former brick and steel frame, which had been corroded by
rust and was weakening the structure by allowing water to penetrate. He
noted that the removal of the scaffolding is being done very carefully
to avoid damage to the body of the pagoda and the floor tiles.
Traditionally, the pagoda is believed to contain a relic of the Lord
Buddha, and is one of the most respected and revered sites in Chiang
Chiang Mai celebrates HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s birthday
A huge celebration was held in Chiang Mai on April 2, in honour
of the birthday of the greatly loved HRH Princess Maha Chakri
Sirindhorn. Presiding over the festivities, held on the open land
opposite the Amari Rincome Hotel, was Boonlert Buranapakorn, with his
guest of honour, Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai.
Mai residents light candles to celebrate HRH Princess Maha Chakri
Sirindhorn’s birthday on Thursday, April 2.
After the speeches and birthday wishes, the crowd of over 1000 local
residents lit candles and stood in silence for the Thai National Anthem,
which was followed by a massive fireworks display and performances of
traditional Thai dances. After the official guests left, the party
continued for the next few hours with bands and dance troupes
entertaining the crowd who remained.
‘7 Dangerous Days’ project aims to tackle carnage on roads during Songkran
In an attempt to reduce the Songkran road death and injury toll
which occurs every year, Chiang Mai’s Transportation Office is setting
up vehicle safety inspection services at their premises and on all main
roads, manned by officers and student mechanics from the 6 vocational
study colleges in the city. A 20 point programme will be used, including
checks on brakes and brake fluid, which will be refilled where
necessary, oil, with changes where necessary, tyres and batteries.
The aim of the service, which will be available until April 10, is to
ensure, before the festival begins, that as many vehicles as possible
are in safe condition. Local garages are also being asked to check all
cars in which they are working, or which they are renting, for the same
safety standards. Drivers are urged to stay alert on the roads during
the festival period, and to avoid drinking and driving.
Roadside inspections of vehicle will also be carried out in order to
discourage and prevent the smuggling of drugs and contraband during the
Chiang Rai police arrest crystal meth smugglers after tip-off
Following a tip-off by informers, Chiang Rai police arrested two
drug smugglers as they were about to board a plane to Bangkok, and
confiscated 1 kilo of the amphetamine known as ‘crystal meth’.
Tharinee Oinmanee, 37, from Muang Nan, and her companion, Pichet
Sangthong, 36, from Rayong, were preparing to board flight TG 133 to
Bangkok, when Tharinee set off the alarm as she passed through a
detector. Airport security officials, together with police already on
the scene as a result of the tip-off, detained and searched Tharinee,
finding two plastic bags stuffed with crystal meth strapped to her legs
under her jeans. Her companion, Pichet, was also taken into custody.
During questioning, Tharinee stated that she was working in Bangkok as a
child-minder, and that she had arrived in Chiang Rai by bus on the
morning of March 21 along with Pichet, a new-found friend, with whom she
had checked into a local hotel. The following morning, Pichet had shown
her the two bags of crystal meth, and told her that she would be paid
100,000 baht if she agreed to smuggle them onto the plane fastened to
her legs. Tharinee admitted that she had agreed, saying that she had
needed the money to pay off debts incurred in Bangkok. Pichet, however,
denied any involvement with the illegal drugs, but was charged, together
with Tharinee, with possession of Class 1 narcotics with the intent to