NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Rak Chiang Mai 51 attempt to intercept PM at military airport

Songkran hotel bookings plunge 40% due to political unrest

New CMU bi-lingual website - an essential tool for ethnicity research

Depressed fireman kills wife,then commits suicide

600 police officers prevent violence between two groups at City Hall

One woman’s wish: ‘No violence… just a government elected by the people’

Australia chooses Thailand as launch site for anti-human trafficking campaign

Four arrested and charged, 30,000 amphetamines seized

CMU software camp competition awards prizes to three teams

Local talent gets another chance

New reservoir to be built in Mae Hong Son

Life skills for the young

 

Rak Chiang Mai 51 attempt to intercept PM at military airport

Saksit Meesubkwang
A stop-over at Chiang Mai’s Wing 41 military airport on April 4 by PM Abhisit Vejjajiva was rudely interrupted by several hundred Rak Chiang Mai 51 members as the PM transferred from his aircraft to a helicopter on a visit to the Doi Angkhang Royal Project in Fang district.
Protestors arrived at approximately 1 p.m. with banner and placards, led by Petcharawat Wattapongsirikul. Finding that they were unable to access the airport in their vehicles as large numbers of local police, and military, both in uniform and plain clothes, were already in attendance, the group used loudspeakers to condemn the present government and urge PM Abhisit to resign.
The PM arrived at 2.30 p.m. and was safely transferred to the helicopter, after which the red-shirted group dispersed.

 

Songkran hotel bookings plunge 40% due to political unrest

CMM Reporters
According to major travel and tourism associations, foreign occupancy rates for Chiang Mai hotels and resorts during the Songkran festivities have fallen from 90-95% in 2008 to 40-45% this year. Political chaos and the threat of violent protests in the city over the holiday period are cited as the main reasons for the disastrous reduction in advance bookings.
Chiang Mai is regarded as the key Songkran destination in Thailand for both foreign and domestic visitors. Tourists already in the city have been urgently booking travel to other areas for fear of violence, and Bangkok travel agents dealing with bookings by foreign visitors are insisting on a 40% deposit to cover ‘no-shows’ in the event of drink-fuelled riots in Chiang Mai.
The city is already reeling from the effects of the world economic crisis, the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport last autumn, and the violent protests in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai itself, including the recent forced cancellation of the Gay Pride Parade due to threats by Rak Chiang Mai 51. Combined with the exceptionally high pollution levels in the city, which have also received international publicity, a drop of 25% in visitor numbers is hardly surprising.
Concern has also been expressed that the manufacturing sector in the area, already suffering from a crucial drop in exports, may use the holiday closures to lay off more workers.


New CMU bi-lingual website - an essential tool for ethnicity research

Elena Edwards
As a result of a 4-year collaboration between the CMU Social Research Institute’s Centre of Ethnic Studies and Development (CESD) and the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), a new bi-lingual website has been launched as a tool for researchers, students and those who are interested in the contemporary history of ethnicity in the north of Thailand.
The site contains over 5,000 downloadable newspaper articles in English, covering the period between 1965 to the present day, extracted mainly from the Bangkok Post, the Chiang Mai Mail, The Nation, the Vientiane Times and the Irrawaddy.
Seven thousand six hundred articles in Thai have been extracted from Khon Muang, Siamrath, Thin Nue, Daily News, Daily Mail, Chiangmai News, Thai News, Matichon and Thairath.
The majority of the articles focus on Thailand and Burma, but some of them also deal with Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, East India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Search can be done by newspaper name, by title, by date and by keywords. Articles in English have been indexed only with English keywords, articles in Thai by Thai keywords.
The website also contains 4,000 pictures with detailed captions, some of which are from privates collections held by Hans Mansdorff, Jacques Lemoine and Paul T. Cohen, and an e-museum from which visitors can download video clips on ethnic cultures.
The URL of the new site is http://www.cesd-thai.info; it is certain to become an invaluable aid to study and research.


Depressed fireman kills wife, then commits suicide

Police and rescue workers attend to the bodies of NiranWongmai and his wife, Rattikan Wongmai, after they were found dead at their house in San Kamphaeng.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Police were sent to a house in San Kamphaeng recently after neighbours reported a shooting. On investigating, they found the corpse of NiranWongmai, 41, a local fireman, with a bullet wound to his chest. A hand-made gun was lying near the body.
In another part of the single-story wooden house, the body of his wife, Rattikan Wongmai, 25, an ex student at Sukhothai Thammathirat University now working in a Thai silk factory, was found, also shot. Near her body was a notebook containing a letter from Niran, explaining why he had shot his wife and then committed suicide, and asking for understanding of his motives.
It would appear that Rattikan, married for some years to Niran, and with two children aged 10 and 7, had wanted to leave as there were problems with debts and other issues. Her parents had been encouraging her to return to live with them for some time. In the letter, Niran admitted that his wife had experienced difficult times with him during their marriage, and that, when he had told his father that he suspected his wife was having an affair, his father had told him to kill her.
Police say the relatives of Rattikan are not pressing charges as the assailant had already chosen to take his own life.


600 police officers prevent violence between two groups at City Hall

Members of Rak Nai Luang show their support
for HM the King at Chiang Mai City Hall.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Concurrent with the huge UDD demonstration in Bangkok on April 8, representatives of Chiang Mai’s ‘Rak Nai Luang’ (Love HM the King) group gathered at City Hall, set up a poster of His Majesty, and submitted a letter via the provincial authority to the Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the deputy PM for security, Suthep Tuaksuban, and the minister at the PM’s office who oversees mass media affairs, Sathit Wongnongtoey.
Rak Nai Luang is led by a former lecturer at Chiang Mai University, Chompoonut Thosinthiti, and the coordinator of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Chiang Mai, Suriyan Thongnue-iad.
The letter urged that government measures should be tightened to protect the nation’s institutions, including religion and the Monarchy. Summarising the present situation, it stated that the UDD red-shirted movement is committed to the destruction of the nation, the Buddhist religion and the institution of Constitutional Monarchy, led by His Majesty the King, who serves as the focus of faith, respect and national esteem, and is enshrined in the hearts of his people.
It went on to claim the UDD has threatened not only senior Privy Councillors (close advisors to His Majesty), but also the judiciary and the Monarchy itself, and added that Rak Nai Luang had gathered as representatives of Chiang Mai residents to reaffirm their love of the King, of Thailand, and of democracy, and in rejection of the UDD’s beliefs and practices.
At the same time, a group of UDD supporters set up loudspeakers near Rak Nai Luang’s group, and relayed speeches from the Bangkok protest at Government House to the crowd who had assembled at City Hall. The Chang Puak Police superintendent, having called up 600 officers to keep the peace, spoke with the leaders of the opposing groups, ordering them not to resort to violence during their rallies.


One woman’s wish: ‘No violence… just a government elected by the people’

Red shirted demonstrators gather outside the Wararot Grand Palace Hotel in Chiang Mai, Monday, April 6.

Lee Roy Webster
On the evening of April 6, the Wararot Grand Palace Hotel in Chiang Mai’s old city was the venue for a gathering of several hundred UDD supporters, in preparation for their journey to Bangkok the following morning to join in the demonstrations. Donations were made and merchandise was purchased, including ‘Truth Today’ t-shirts, foot clappers, masks of various kinds, picture cards featuring ex PM Thaksin and DVD’s of his recent speeches at rallies. The voice of Jakrapob Penkair was heard booming through speakers.
An older woman who had set up her food stall and was donating the evening’s profits to the UDD cause was asked why she was there to demonstrate and donate. She replied, “Because I don’t want my children and grandchildren to grow up in a military and elite-dominated state. I love His Majesty the King, Queen Sirikit and their children a lot - they do so many good things for poor and underprivileged people, especially here in northern Thailand and in Chiang Mai. I am sad that they do not come here to visit any more. But I also believe that powerful people in the military and near HM the King abuse their power and use the name of the monarchy to make politics. The Abhisit government was not elected - they came to power without the peoples’ voices. I want a democratically elected government - elected by the people in Thailand, for a better future for us all.”
After her comments, the older woman went back to selling her sausages, fish and meat balls.
Every 30 minutes or so, the MC announced more donations to the UDD, both in cash and kind - bags of rice, bottles of water, petrol vouchers, 500 baht, 10 cushions…
A tourist couple, from Ireland, here for Songkran, remarked in reference to the screen on which shots of demonstrations were being shown. “It could be an open-air cinema, to those who don’t know what’s going on!”
Another tourist asked an older man what the event was about; he replied in broken English, but spoke with difficulty. There was no violence and no threat of violence. It seemed that the crowd in no way wanted violence. Thailand is beginning to be split in two. All its citizens can do is to hope that the demonstrations in Bangkok and across the country are peaceful.


Australia chooses Thailand as launch site for anti-human trafficking campaign

The Australian government has chosen Thailand for the launch of its campaign against human trafficking. It is publishing a set of two handbooks to be distributed free to Thai women and private organisations in the kingdom which assist children and women victims. The 15,000 handbooks cost the Australian government A$472,000 to print and were recently handed over to Thailand’s permanent secretary for Social Development and Human Security, Wallop Ploytubtim, by Bronte Moules, deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok.
The handbooks are designed to assist Thai women who have been trafficked to Australia to return home and to prevent women in Thailand and other ASEAN countries from falling prey to human traffickers. Wallop said Thai women and children who are victims of human trafficking are mostly found in South Africa, Bahrain, Japan and Malaysia, with few in Australia. Reports from international organisations include the Middle East, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK as destinations, particularly for women trafficked from Thailand. A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology, cites Thailand as a major source of girls trafficked into Australia as sex workers. (TNA)


Four arrested and charged, 30,000 amphetamines seized

The captured drug smugglers sit with their contraband at police HQ.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following a tip-off from an informant, local police and military arrested 4 YaBa dealers at a specially set- up checkpoint in Chaiprakarn district, seizing 30,000 methamphetamine tablets, a pick-up truck and 4 cell phones, and charging the dealers with possession with intent to distribute illegal drugs.
Nattayot Somsit, 24, and Jarat Tuoythong, 27, both Chiang Mai residents, were searched, together with their truck, having been stopped at the checkpoint. 30,000 methamphetamine pills were found inside one of the truck’s tyres.
Meanwhile, a bus which had also been stopped was searched, resulting in two women, Marisa Jaka, 25 and Nasi Janga, 21, being discovered with pills concealed in their underwear.
During questioning, the two women admitted that they had been hired for a fee of 13,000 baht to deliver the drugs to Chiang Mai and distribute them. The men admitted that they had bought the amphetamines for 1 million baht, to deliver to Bangkok.


CMU software camp competition awards prizes to three teams

The students celebrate after competing in the CMU software camp competition.

Elena Edwards
April 9 brought awards and celebrations for 3 teams of students at CMU’s College of Arts, Media and Technology (CAMT) at the close of a unique software training camp.
With the close collaboration of Chiang Mai Lanna Business Systems Co Ltd (CLBS), the 32 students in the three teams had competed to produce new e-registration software which will allow prospective CAMT students to book their places online.
The best performance was judged to be that of ‘9 Company’, winning them the first prize of 15,000 baht, to be shared between the 10 members. Runners up were ANT Company, who were awarded 10,000 baht, and SAPsoft, who received 5,000 baht.
Dean of CAMT, Dr Nopasit Chakpitak, told the students that their next task was to finish their individual senior projects and internships, and to prove that they were suitable for the jobs market. Several have won scholarships for further study in Europe; others will be placed in internship programmes with college partners such as CLBS, and clients of IBM in Bangkok.
On behalf of CLBS, Matthias Schenk said that the practical application of the project meant that the students had learned skills never taught in text books. “Teamwork and the delegation of tasks take place every day in business”, he emphasised, noting that those aspects, and the fact that behind every small problem lay a bigger problem, had been thoroughly understood by the competing students.
According to senior lecturer, Ajarn Pawin Pruttinan, all 3 teams had completed at least the minimum requirements. The course had possibly been one of the most difficult for students in their 3 years with CAMT, however, they had shown themselves to be very eager to learn, and had made extraordinary efforts to complete the project.
Thanking CLBS and the lecturers, student spokesman, Peerawat Poombun, said that all were now aware of their immediate skills, and how they needed to improve. “We will keep this camp in our minds for ever” he added.


Local talent gets another chance

Noodle Duck perform at the press reception held at JJ Markets.

Michael Davies
Earlier this month, over 30 of the local paparazzi turned out in force at JJ Markets on Assadorn Road for the press launch of the 3rd Annual JJ Talent Competition 2009.
The winners of last year’s competition, ‘Roye’ together with ‘Noodle Duck’ and ‘The Opposite’ were on hand to entertain the audience. Since winning last year, ‘Roye’ has gone on to win the Music Express 23rd Anniversary contest in Bangkok and are also in negotiations to sign a record deal with Sony BMG Thailand.
This year’s competition will be widened to include Dance, Fashion and Comedy rounds, with 2 rounds each month. Thai band rounds will be May 8, June 12, July 10 and August 14. Singles and Duets will compete on September 11, with Farang bands on October 9. Dance rounds will be on May 22, June 26 and July 24, Comedy on August 28, and Fashion on September 25 and October 23.
The runners up of each round will go forward to the semi finals in November, with the winner and the winner of the monthly round playing in the Grand Final on December 9.
Contestants must be aged between 15 and 25 years old. The organisers encourage audience participation by allowing them to vote for the winners of each round, as well as having a judging panel of experts in the various fields, sponsors and the media.
Any single performer or group wishing to take part in this competition should contact Sarayanee on 085-866-7313. Since the competition started two years ago JJ Markets has become a nightlife hotspot, mainly for the younger generation, and as such is the ideal venue for the talent contest.


New reservoir to be built in Mae Hong Son

Khajohn Boonpath
As a result of a 2006 visit to Mae Hong Son by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, and the subsequent founding of the ‘Water Preservation for the Mother of the Land Project’ initiated as a result of Her Majesty’s concern, a new reservoir will be built at Ban Huaypong-On in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district.
Her Majesty was reported to have expressed her concern about inhabitants of the mountainous areas along the watershed of the Mae Sa-nga River, in that they must realise the essential nature of the forests, the waters and the earth. The Department of Irrigation has allocated a budget of 74.5 million baht, and the project is expected to be completed by June, 2010.
The new reservoir will have a storage capacity of 645,000 cubic metres, and will support an area of 2,200 rai of agricultural land in Muang, Pang Moo and Mok Pae sub-districts. In addition, 363 families in Pang Moo and Mok Pae and their domestic animals will be able to rely on year-round water supplies from the reservoir.
As a further result of the new project, developments will also be undertaken in the communities living along the river basins of the Mae Sa-nga, the Pai, and in Mae Sa-ad – Huaymakklang.


Life skills for the young

The high school girls attend the ‘Life skills for youth’ workshop
at Chalermprakiat School for Girls in Pasang, Lamphun.

Michael Davies
A ‘Life skills for youth’ workshop was held recently at Chalermprakiat School for Girls in Pasang, Lamphun, organised by Singapore’s District 330 Inner Wheel Club and funded by their donation of 22,000 baht.
One hundred and sixty nine high school girls attended the one-day event, which began with a mediation session led by the Chiang Mai Raja Yoga Centre. Ten volunteers from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine, all 4th year students, conducted the training workshop.