Traditional New Year ceremony held at Chiang Mai’s Night Safari
Traditional Thai New Year ceremonies, the ‘Suma Lathod’ and ‘Rod Nam
Dam Hua’, were held at Chiang Mai Night Safari on the evening of April 15 as
part of the city’s Songkran festival. These ceremonies, dating from ancient
times, are held annually to ask forgiveness and to receive blessings which
will bring happiness, luck and prosperity in the New Year, and also involve
paying respect to Phu Yai (the most senior people) in the traditional manner
by gently pouring holy water on their hands.
wonderful fashion show featuring traditional Lanna clothing followed the
On the last day of the New Year celebrations, prominent Chiang Mai citizens
traditionally give holy water to the leading member of the ancient Lanna
Royal Family, rulers in the north of Thailand since the founding of the
city. Prominent Chiang Mai personalities from all walks of life,
organisations, and companies gathered to honour Chao Dr. Duangduen na
The Rod Nam Dam Hua ceremony itself began at 6.30 p.m. with traditional
dances from beautifully costumed performers. The magnificent parade, of
celebrants carrying Lanna relics, with Chao Dr. Duangduen na Chiengmai in
its centre, began at 7 p.m., filling the atmosphere with warmth and joy.
After the parade ended, Chao Dr. Duangduen na Chiengmai took her position,
seated on the traditionally decorated stage, and received the holy water
from the guests.
Following the ceremony, a grand fashion show, Pha Lanna Phusa Vichitre,
delighted guests with dazzling clothes made from rare and finely woven local
fabrics in amazing combinations and styles.
The Songkran celebrations continued at the Night Safari until the end of the
following day, with a Kad Mau local market, traditional performances, a
musical fountain, an elephant performance, and displays of baby animals.
Chao Dr. Duangduen na Chiengmai, a leading
member of the ancient Lanna Royal Family (centre) was the guest of honour at
Chiang Mai residents line up to pay their
Mixed feelings and objectives as Bangkok protests end
Three weeks of demonstrations by UDD supporters ended early last
week in an anticlimactic climb-down and warrants for the arrest of the
movement’s leaders. An arrest warrant was also issued for ex-PM Thaksin
Thai anti-government protestor looks on from one of the last red shirt
strongholds in Bangkok as the violent demonstrations came to a close last
Tuesday, April 14. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
The original aim of the protests, to bring down PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and his
government and force a general election, led to street battles involving
weapons and extreme violence, two deaths of local residents (themselves
uninvolved as protestors), the transference of the riots to Pattaya, causing
the cancellation of the ASEAN finance ministers’ summit, and the somewhat
belated involvement of the military, which finally brought the remaining
2,000 hard-core protestors to their knees.
The divisive involvement from afar of ex-PM Thaksin ended with his
interview, shown both on CNN and the BBC’s world services, which contrasted
strongly in its presentation, its inaccuracies and its general air of
confusion with a similar interview given by PM Abhisit.
Media reports had indicated that Thaksin’s intention was to return to
Thailand to lead a grass-roots ‘revolution’, centred on support from the
rural communities and the city poor. However, a number of first-hand reports
are now beginning to suggest that PM Thaksin’s position in the conflict is
being sidelined by a general feeling amongst UDD protestors that their
efforts are aimed at democracy itself, a voice of the people for the people,
achieved by means of an election by the people, rather than their current
perception of a government by the elite for the elite.
The reported lack of enthusiasm on the part of the police, particularly in
Pattaya, to control the riots is being suggested as an indication of
sympathy amongst ordinary police personnel towards the protestors’ aims.
Media reports are also contrasting the violent final response of the army to
the UDD protestors with their response last autumn to the PAD’s protest,
which closed down Suvarnabhumi International Airport for a week and caused
irreparable damage to an already weakened economy. The leaders of that
protest were also arrested, but immediately released on bail, and may now be
facing lesser charges, according to last week’s Bangkok Post.
It has also been noted that internet sites and a TV station linked to the
UDD have been closed down, while, last autumn, a TV station run by a PAD
leader was allowed to continue broadcasting. Such comparisons cannot but
encourage the increasing divisions now apparent in Thai society. Thais
resident outside the kingdom are reinforcing the protestors’ change in focus
from support for their fallen leader and his government to complaints about
the state of Thailand’s democracy, its perceived double standards and its
perception of provincial people as unintelligent and unable to be objective
about political issues.
Other quotes from Bangkok residents suggest that, although PM Abhisit may
have gained some popularity by sending in the troops and ending the
stand-off, ex-PM Thaksin will not give up his struggle for reinstatement
just yet. A prominent Thai historian is quoted by The Times newspaper as
saying, “The Government has underestimated the wrath of rural and
marginalised people, and that is partly why they have not made enough effort
to reach out to heal the rift.”
It seems clear that the distance between the opposing groups has widened as
a result of last week’s chaos, and that a grass-roots movement, independent
of any former connections and familiar to those who have studied world
history, may have strengthened.
Petrol bomb components found behind red-shirts’ stage at City Hall
Components which might be used in arson and other sabotage attempts have
been found at a makeshift platform erected by red-shirt protestors outside
Chiang Mai City Hall.
Chiang Mai governor, Amornphan Nimanand, said the authorities had suspected
the northern city might become a target of sabotage following last Monday’s
chaos in Bangkok, after finding quantities of gasoline, bottles and pieces
of cloth (all materials which could be used to make petrol bombs) at the
back of the stage erected by Red Shirt protesters. Tyres and unlit torches,
which could easily be set ablaze with gasoline, had also been found in a
vehicle parked outside City Hall.
According to Amornphan, although the Red Shirt protesters who had earlier
gathered outside the provincial hall had dispersed and their platform had
been dismantled, arrest warrants will be issued for those allegedly
Fierce winds and
severe thunderstorms hit Chiang Mai
A fierce summer storm with severe winds hit Chiang Mai on April 11,
as the city was preparing to begin its New Year celebrations. Giant
advertising billboards at several major intersections were toppled by the
strength of the winds, with power failures occurring in several areas.
In Muang district, trees were uprooted and posters and billboards littered
the streets, closing traffic routes and a number of sois. The Hong Hoi area
of the Chiang Mai/Lamphun Road became impassable due to falling debris,
causing problems for motorists. In rural areas outside the city, power cuts
lasted for some hours, and many trees were uprooted, damaging homes.
Municipal workers were forced to cut away the steel frames of demolished
advertising billboards in order to safely remove them, with electricity
board workers having to prioritise repairs in rural areas because of damage
caused to residents’ properties.
A local government official confirmed that a survey was under way to
estimate the full cost of the damage.
Abhisit asserts Thailand
determined to host ASEAN summit
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asserted on Thursday that his government is
determined to host a renewed session of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) summit with the six dialogue partners. The scheduled Pattaya
meeting was abruptly cancelled after anti-government protesters stormed into
its hotel venue last weekend.
Returning to Government House for the first time in three weeks after the
anti-government demonstrators ended their rally last Tuesday, Abhisit told a
press conference that his government could not allow the summit to meet with
failure, stating, “We will decide on the dates for the ASEAN plus 3 and the
ASEAN plus 6 in the next few days. I will meet with the secretary general of
ASEAN in the next two days.” (TNA)
Thailand says no country
has confirmed issue
of a passport to ex-premier
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday indicated that no countries
have confirmed news reports concerning issued passports for former PM
Speaking of progress in the search for the fugitive ex-premier, Abhisit
said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already informed international
agencies concerned of his government’s intention to bring the ousted
premier to face trial in Thailand.
The ministry has notified all countries having diplomatic ties with the
kingdom, that the Thai government is not happy seeing Thaksin use their
territory to make political statements.
Regarding news reports that three countries - including Nicaragua, the
United Arab Emirates, and Cambodia – had issued passports for Thaksin,
the PM said the government was examining the reports, which no country
had yet confirmed.
Asked whether the revocation of Thaksin’s passport would make it easier
for his arrest, Abhisit said it depended on how many relevant travel
documents the former premier had. However, he believed all countries
would not allow the use of their territory to undermine the security of
other countries, and that international laws and agreements must be
“I cannot tell whether the ex-premier will be finally arrested because
we don’t know exactly where he is, and whether the country has an
extradition treaty with Thailand,” he said.
On the question of whether conflict in Thailand would end when Thaksin
is arrested, the premier said he had not thought about it, saying, “Mr.
Thaksin’s arrest must be done according to the law. One approach to
permanently ending the conflicts is to try to seek a common political
way out for all conflicting parties.” (TNA)
Red shirts rally in Chiang Mai to protest police raid and closure of radio station
Following searches, the temporary closure and the seizure of
equipment by local police of a community radio station based at the
Waroros Grand Palace Hotel and owned by Rak Chiang Mai 51 leader
Phetchawat Wattanapongsirikul, local red shirts laid siege to a police
station in Muang district and the home of the local police commander.
Approximately 300 protestors gathered initially outside the home of Pol
Maj Gen Sommai Kong Wisaisuk, commander of the Chiang Mai police,
shouting insults and accusing him of double standards in that a radio
station belonging to the opposing yellow shirts had not been raided or
closed down. Riot police dispersed the protestors, who moved to the
Muang police station, submitting a petition and insisting on speaking
with the station commander, who proved not to be available.
Pol Lt Col Sawas Larkad, the deputy commander, told protestors that the
provincial administration had ordered the radio station closed as it had
broadcast threats and taunts which had encouraged chaos in the city.
The protestors, however, continued to insist that the Wihok (yellow
shirt) radio station must also be closed, threatening to stage a huge
rally involving 50,000 demonstrators if their demands were not met.
Thai Journalists’ Assn.
calls for independent enquiry into rift in society
Following the ending of the UDD protests in Bangkok and Pattaya, the
Thai Journalists’ Association (TJA) and its 12 affiliate organisations
have called for an independent enquiry into the root causes of the
political and social strife which has resulted in violent confrontations
across the kingdom during the last few months.
The rector of Thammasat University, Prinva Thewanaruemitkul, stated last
week that “Even though the government won this time, conflict remains in
our society. The government needs to think about helping people live
together peacefully in this country.”
Speaking at the TJA press conference, Prinva explained that an
independent enquiry should include representatives from the government,
the House of Representatives, and relevant civic groups, and should
identify the root causes of the mounting turmoil over the last several
years, and the means by which the process can be reversed.
During the recent protests, three Thai journalists were assaulted by
protestors in separate incidents. UDD supporters told reporters that
they no longer trusted the Thai media as they felt it was
misrepresenting their cause by reporting in a biased manner.
Chiang Rai red shirts end rally, go underground
Chiang Rai red shirts, the ‘June 24 Group of Democracy and Love
Thaksin Club’, have ended their peaceful rally in the city and
dispersed, according to their core leader, Jeeranant Chantrawong, who
stated that, “We are not defeated, but we stop for the safety of the
red-shirted demonstrators in Bangkok.”
The protest had been taking place in front of the Chiang Rai governor’s
residence, where a stage and tents had been erected. Jeeranant stated
that the group would continue their anti-government protests, but in a
different manner as an underground movement.
Two major groups are active in Chiang Rai; the UDD’s Chiang Rai 52, and
the Chiang Rai Hug Pracha Thipatai, (Chiang Rai Loves Democracy). A
favourite site for demonstrations is the Saenphu Hotel in Chiang Rai’s
Key protest leader seeks parliamentary immunity from arrest
Opposition Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Prompan said the House of
Representatives will decide this week whether or not he should receive
parliamentary privileges which may lead to his immunity regarding an
arrest warrant already issued for his involvement in the Red Shirt
Jatuporn, one of a dozen leaders of the United Front for Democracy
against Dictatorship (UDD) protests which culminated in last Monday’s
street chaos, the deaths of two civilians and injuries for over a
hundred others, said he was merely fighting for freedom under the
existing rule of law, but it remains to be seen if most of his
colleagues in the House of Representatives will vote to support the
immunity he is seeking.
Other UDD leaders, including Veera Musikapong and Nattawut Saikua, had
earlier surrendered and are currently being detained pending police
investigation into last week’s violence which occurred under emergency
rule and coincided with Songkran festivities.
Jatuporn said he was not resisting arrest or asking MPs to endorse his
immunity during the House meeting this Wednesday, but he insisted legal
procedures in his case must be applied according to the law. The Puea
Thai Party MP said last Monday’s chaos, with the torching of buses and
shootouts claiming two deaths in the Nang Lerng area near Government
House, had not been committed by Red Shirt protesters but by others “in
disguise and on covert missions, including police officers, street thugs
and the Blue Shirts.” He added that a number of Red Shirt protesters had
been killed by soldiers and others who then disposed of the bodies, and
that the buses which were torched in the streets of Bangkok had been
driven through areas secured by the soldiers.
The opposition MP said he offered Bt500,000 in cash to anyone providing
information about the Nang Lerng shootout leading to the arrest of the
gunman who had killed the local civilians. He affirmed that his Puea
Thai Party and the UDD would compile facts and figures behind Monday’s
chaos in order to fight for justice in court at a later date.
The Red Shirt leader held Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva - who decided
to have the military deal with the protesters under emergency rule - as
having the final responsibility for last week’s street chaos, as well as
the deaths and injuries of the civilians. The PM earlier announced that
no UDD protesters were killed in last Monday’s violence. Defence
Ministry spokesman Col. Chittasak Charoensombat dismissed allegations
that the bodies of slain UDD protesters had been incinerated at Sakhon
Soonprachasan temple in the Lad Prao area, but said that temple was only
used as a temporary shelter for the soldiers. (TNA)
Chiang Mai Songkran road
accidents claim 13 lives
According to Prachon Prachsakul, head of Chiang Mai ‘s office of
Provincial Public Disaster Prevention, road accidents during the holiday
period to April 15 claimed 13 lives, and injured a further 11 people.
The majority of the accidents occurred between 4 p.m. and midnight;
victims were mainly local residents, with drink-driving a contributory
cause, as was not wearing a helmet while driving a motorcycle.
Crowds, tradition, perfumed
water, and a water gate -
Chiang Rai’s Songkran
Vehicles and pedestrians get a thorough
dowsing at Chiang Rai’s water gate.
Lee Roy Webster
Almost 50,000 residents and visitors gathered in the northern
city of Chiang Rai to celebrate the Songkran New Year festival. As in
Chiang Mai, the main source of enjoyment is the throwing of water, with
huge crowds in and on all manner of transportation and on foot, turning
the city centre into a facsimile of happy children playing in a
This year, however, Chiang Rai municipality scored a first …with a
special Songkran ‘water gate’. Quite simply, water from fire trucks is
pumped into a huge basin, from where, under pressure, it is pumped to a
large number of nozzles installed in the gate. For even more effect, two
water pipelines are set either side of the water gate, continually
sending great bows of water into the air, glittering in the sunshine
like rainbows! Spectacular, and very effective, as the entire parade,
and anyone in the area, gets thoroughly soaked!
A thousand beautiful colours and costumes, a peaceful celebration: the
people give water to the Buddha images for luck, health, for forgiveness
for their sins, for forgiving others who had sinned, for respecting
their religion, the Buddhistic lifestyle and their traditions. Some of
the crowd had coloured and perfumed water in big bottles - scented with
flowers, with tamarind, jasmine and orchids.
The parade featured trucks with beautifully decorated figures and
animals from Buddhist history - tigers, oxen, elephants and birds – and
traditionally costumed people from Chiang Rai’s community were seated on
the trucks, welcoming the crowds in a language from the ancient past.
A colourful parade featured figures and
animals from Buddhist history.
Rural women average 46% annual
return on investment in village banks
The 2009 Baan Pong Women’s Group, which
began last year with 20 members, has already added several new members
While the rest of the world has been recovering from this year’s
stock market drop, a group of women in Mae Taeng have been celebrating
with a 46% return on their investment. The Baan Pong Women’s Group
started saving together last April. Each month, the group would meet and
each member would save 50 baht. The money would then be used to provide
loans to each other.
In the past, most women who wanted a loan for their shop or farm
borrowed from local moneylenders who charge very high interest rates.
Large lending organisations like Nim See Seng charge anywhere from 5-10%
per month. Smaller, more local lenders often charge up to 20% per DAY.
While the actual cost is often hidden, most borrowers know that their
business’ profits will go to repay the loan.
With assistance from the Common Interest Foundation, the Baan Pong
Women’s Group has decided to become their own moneylenders. The group
started saving together and used their own money to provide loans to
each other. Within one year, the group generated over 12,000 baht in
profit. At the annual meeting, the Women’s Group decided to donate 10%
of the fund to local projects and then disburse the remaining to the
members in the form of a dividend. As result, members made 46% on their
After seeing their initial success, the Women’s Group has decided to
expand their operations this year by increasing the monthly savings to
100 baht each as well as adding more members from their village.
The Common Interest Foundation has been operating since 2005 in northern
Thailand. Its goal is to help rural villagers to establish their own
Village Banks in order to provide better economic opportunities for
their area. Village Banking provides a safe and local place for rural
people to save and borrow. Funds remain local and are used to improve
small businesses and farms.
More information on Village Banking can be found at
www.commoninterest.org or www.microfinancethailand.com.