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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Their Majesties celebrate their fifty-ninth wedding anniversary

Red Shirt leaders surrender to police

Local SMEs to exhibit at ‘sale of the century’ fair in Chiang Mai

Frenchman commits suicide at army shooting range

Mystery reappearance of stolen goods lands two tourists in prison

US Secretary of State to attend ASEAN summit in Thailand

Human Rights Watch: End of protests is time for accountability

Chiang Mai Zoo launches ‘mobile marketing’ project

Row erupts again over plans for Ping River floodgate

Empress Hotel hosts international conference on development project impact assessment

Toeless train robber arrested in hospital

 

Their Majesties celebrate their fifty-ninth wedding anniversary

Kingdom of Thailand rejoices

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great
and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit were married on April 28, 1950.
(Photo courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household)

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitayakara were married by Her Majesty Queen Sawang Vadhana, the paternal grandmother of His Majesty, at the Sra Pathum Palace in Bangkok on April 28, 1950.
Mom Rajawongse Sirikit, the daughter of the Thai Ambassador to France Mom Chao Nakkhatmongkol Kitayakara and Mom Luang Bua Sanitwongse met the soon-to-be-King at the Thai Embassy in Paris in 1948. They were engaged to be married at the Windsor Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 19, 1949.
They returned to Thailand during the government of Prime Minister Field Marshal Pibul Songkhram and a stunningly beautiful marriage ceremony was held while the Thai military forces formed to honor and salute the Royal Couple.
Following the Royal marriage, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great ascended the throne, becoming the ninth King of Thailand in the Chakri Dynasty with all the pomp and pageantry befitting a Royal coronation on May 5, 1950.
Their Majesties have four children, HRH Princess Ubolratana, HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and HRH Princess Chulabhorn.
Long live His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

 

Red Shirt leaders surrender to police

Red shirt leaders undergo processing at Lamphun police HQ after voluntarily surrendering to law enforcement officials.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Six Red Shirt leaders from Chiang Mai and Lamphun surrendered on April 21 to Lamphun Provincial Police’s Commander Pol Maj Gen Boonmee Somsuk, cheered on by their followers.
The six leaders, Lamphun-based Pheu Thai MP, Sathaporn Maneerat, Petchawat Wattanapongsirikul (core leader of Rak Chiang Mai 51), Chinchai Kaewruen, Sawaeng Yotkart, Udomsak Promsit and Sunai Jansawang, were charged with leading their groups in blocking the Chiang Mai – Lampang Superhighway at Doi Ti intersection and the nearby railway during Apr 12 – 14. All were charged with 16 violations against articles 215 and 216 of the criminal law, and with violations of traffic laws. Arrest warrants had also been issued for the six men from Muang district, Muang Jee and Mae Ta police stations.
During the surrender, up to 100 red shirt supporters cheered their leaders on, closely monitored by some 50 police officers in order to prevent a disturbance. Bail set at 100,000 baht was granted to each man. Previously, two further leaders, Prasong Kaewlue and Niyom Kaljark, had been arrested and charged.
Pheu Thai MP Sathaporn told the press they had surrendered to show their intention to follow their rights of democratic movement as granted by the Constitution, insisting that the groups had caused no damage to government assets or properties and that therefore the charges against them were unfounded. Sathaporn added that a number of protestors had previously surrendered in Bangkok in order to prove their good intent.
The Pheu Thai MP stated that the speed of the leaders’ arrests demonstrated the double standards of practices in Thai society, and compared the warrants issued last year against the Yellow Shirts with those issued against the Red Shirts.
“When the Yellow Shirts seized the airport, invaded Government House and closed the streets, arrest warrants were not issued immediately, as they were with us,” said Sathaporn, adding that the Red Shirts had gathered peacefully, and with no weapons, yet had been treated unfairly by local police. Finally, Sathaporn encouraged all Red Shirts to demonstrate without violence, in support of their arrested leaders’ surrender.
Petchawat, after his surrender to Lamphun police, subsequently surrendered to Chiang Mai police at the Saraphi station, and was charged with the same offences, committed between 1 p.m and 5 p.m. on April 11 at Moo 3 on the Chiang Mai/Lampang Superhighway in Saraphi district. He was again bailed at 100,000 baht, and went on to surrender himself at Mae Ping and Phuping police stations, having insisted that he is willing to surrender to all charges and that he will fight all cases brought against him.


Local SMEs to exhibit at ‘sale of the century’ fair in Chiang Mai

Thanaphan Siriyothiphan (3rd from right, front row) and representatives of local SME’s attend a press conference to publicize the SME Fair, which will take place in Chiang Mai from May 1-10.

Saksit Meesubkwang
The Association for the Promotion of Thai Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (ATSME) has announced that it will host an SME fair in Chiang Mai from May 1- 10, to be attended by hundreds of exhibitors displaying a large range of products, including consumer goods, car accessories, household items and electronics, all to be sold at discount prices. The fair will be held in the compound at the Centre for Industrial Promotion on Tung Hotel Road, with a large number of visitors expected to attend.
The chairperson of the SME Fair’s organising committee, Thanaphan Siriyothiphan, noted that the worldwide economic crisis had seriously affected small and medium-sizes businesses in Chiang Mai, leaving many in a vulnerable position due to falling export orders. Domestic demand had also fallen, and the lack of tourists had resulted in sales levels dropping to an all-time low, resulting in business closures and job losses. He stated that the fair was intended to stimulate SMEs’ cash-flow in the short term, making it possible for them to survive the recession.


Frenchman commits suicide at army shooting range

A doctor and nurse at Nakornping hospital attempt
to revive Gerard Soleillant after the shooting.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Police were called to the shooting range at the 3rd Development Battalion premises on Chotana Road last week, after receiving notification that a Frenchman, Gerard Soleillant, 56, who was using the facility for practice, had apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Officers at the facility had tried to revive the wounded man without success and he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at Nakornping hospital.
A member of the military told police that Gerard had previously used the facility for shooting practice, and that, after the fatal shot was heard and Gerard was seen to collapse, officers had rushed to help. A later examination of the VCR tape showed that Gerard had shot himself in the left side of his head. It is thought possible that he was suffering from severe stress, which caused him to commit suicide.


Mystery reappearance of stolen goods lands two tourists in prison

CMM reporters
Two young Australian tourists, Jacob McGrath and Paul Johnson, on holiday in Chiang Mai and staying at a local guest house, returned to their room the day before they were due to fly home, to find that a laptop computer, an iPod, a digital camera and a pair of sunglasses were missing. After searching for their property, the pair called the local police. Amazingly, when the police arrived, all the missing items were easily found.
Unfortunately, this was not to be the happy end to the story. Chiang Mai police arrested both men, and charged them with supplying false information. An unusually swift court appearance followed, 4 days after the arrest, at which Jacob and Paul were convicted and sentenced to 4 months in prison, reduced equally swiftly to 2 months as they had decided to plead guilty to the charges.
Since then the pair have been incarcerated in a cell with 25 other prisoners, their heads shaved, allowed 2 one-hour exercise periods each day and sleeping on thin camping mattresses. The Australian authorities were, it seems, unable to visit the pair until after their convictions, and their parents were unaware of the situation until they were informed by a New Zealand missionary prison visitor, again, after the young men’s conviction.


US Secretary of State to attend ASEAN summit in Thailand

Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya announced last Friday that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has confirmed her attendance at a ministerial meeting between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and international dialogue partners in Thailand in July.
Kasit told the media by telephone following a meeting with Mrs. Clinton in Washington during his one-week official visit to the U.S.
“I have informed Mrs. Clinton that the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva administration is now working to achieve national reconciliation. Some articles of the Thai Constitution will be amended to enhance democratic system,” the foreign minister said.
Kasit said Mrs. Clinton has no questions regarding Thailand’s political stability and the political movements of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, adding that the Secretary of State has been regularly informed on the issue by the US ambassador to Thailand.
Apart from attending the ASEAN foreign minister’s meeting with the pact’s regional partners, Kasit said, the US Secretary of State’s visit is aimed at boosting long-term Thai-US bilateral ties. There will be bilateral talks regarding regional politics and security.
Meanwhile, he added that Mrs. Clinton expressed concern regarding the Thai-Cambodian border dispute which resulted in several border clashes.
“I have assured her that Thailand would resolve the issue through peaceful means and the kingdom will maintain its financial support for Cambodia’s infrastructure development projects despite conflicts,” he said.
The Thai foreign minister added he has urged the United States to review its boycott policy over the Thai neighbouring country of Myanmar, especially those concerning the banning of companies that have trade ties with Myanmar’s military government.
Kasit reasoned that the boycott has affected the Thai jewellery industry because most of raw materials come from Myanmar. He said he had clarified with the US authorities that Thai jewellery companies acquired their raw materials from Myanmar’s retail traders, not from the government’s auction. (TNA)


Human Rights Watch: End of protests is time for accountability

The Thai government should set up an independent commission to carry out a prompt, effective, and impartial investigation into the politically motivated violence by all sides during the recent protests and hold those responsible accountable, the Human Rights Watch has said. The commission should also investigate abuses related to other violent protests in the past year, including those by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).
Anti-government protests organized by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), backed by deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra, began on March 26. During street battles involving these protesters, Thai security forces, and other groups, at least 123 people were injured, according to the Public Health Ministry. On April 14, two members of neighborhood watch groups were shot dead in a clash with protesters. Four soldiers were wounded by gunshot. The rest of the injured suffered from tear gas inhalation, bone fractures, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
“Now that the protests are over, it is time for the government and protest leaders to make public commitments to end abuses and ensure that those committing violence are properly investigated and prosecuted,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The many casualties during the protests cannot simply be forgotten or ignored.”
The protests in late March began with a virtual siege of Government House, the Bangkok compound that is the prime minister’s office, and turned violent on April 7, when protesters attacked PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s motorcade in Pattaya as he headed back to Bangkok after a cabinet meeting. The red-shirted protesters then clashed with pro-government groups in Pattaya on April 10 and 11. After UDD protesters broke into the meeting site of the ASEAN summit, it was cancelled and ASEAN and other national leaders were evacuated by helicopter. In response, the government declared a state of emergency in Pattaya on April 11 and in Bangkok and surrounding provinces on April 12.
On April 12, about 50 UDD members protesting the state of emergency and the arrest of one of their leaders, Arisman Pongruangrong, forced their way into the Interior Ministry in Bangkok, where Abhisit was meeting with senior government officials. They attacked the prime minister’s motorcade as he tried to leave the compound. Live news coverage showed protesters smashing the windshields with concrete blocks and flagpoles. The protesters dragged passengers out of cars and beat them, injuring and briefly detaining a number of officials, including the prime minister’s secretary-general, Niphon Prompan.
Human Rights Watch investigations have found that street fighting began in Bangkok on April 13 at about 4:30 a.m. when protesters, who had been blocking main intersections in the Din Daeng area with buses and taxis, attacked approaching soldiers with guns, Molotov bombs, improvised grenades, slingshots, and rocks. Soldiers used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters and clear the blockades. News footage and accounts by witnesses show that while most of the guns were fired into the air, some soldiers fired their assault rifles directly at the protesters.
Protesters then seized more than 50 passenger buses and tried to run over soldiers. Some buses were burned and used as barricades. The protesters also threatened to blow up trucks containing liquefied petroleum gas near residential areas and hospitals. Clashes spilled into other parts of Bangkok throughout the next morning. The tactics used by the protesters enraged many Bangkok residents, who formed neighborhood watch groups and sided with the soldiers.
On April 14, hundreds of heavily armed soldiers moved in on the UDD stronghold in front of Government House. Just before 11 a.m. the protest leaders, saying they were concerned for the safety of the protesters, announced an end to the protests and told their members to disperse. Veera Musikhapong and other UDD leaders then surrendered to the police.
“Whatever its legitimate grievances, the UDD under Thaksin’s leadership tried for weeks to provoke a violent government response to advance its political goals,” said Adams. “The UDD should understand that it can’t both commit violent attacks and claim to be a peaceful political movement.”
Human Rights Watch noted that Thai law enforcement personnel and military forces often showed great restraint in the face of provocation. The civilian authorities and the army issued orders to troops to avoid using lethal force except in self-defence. But in its preliminary investigations, Human Rights Watch concluded that soldiers in some cases unnecessarily used live ammunition to disperse protesters.
Human Rights Watch called for an investigation to determine who gave orders to fire live ammunition and under what circumstances. In protecting public safety, Thai authorities are obligated to use lawful means, including force proportionate to the level of threat or legitimate objective. The United Nations Basic Principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials provide that authorities shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, the authorities must use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. The Basic Principles also call for an effective reporting and review process, especially in cases of death and serious injury.
“Officials who gave orders to use only lawful force during the protests deserve praise,” said Adams. “But soldiers and police who used force beyond what was needed should not escape investigation and prosecution. The government cannot only prosecute protest leaders or they will make a mockery of Thai law.” (Source Human Rights Watch)


Chiang Mai Zoo launches ‘mobile marketing’ project

Saksit Meesubkwang
Schools and academic institutions are being targeted by a new marketing initiative, launched April 20 by Chiang Mai Zoo, which aims to disseminate information about the zoo’s activities, major attractions, events and promotions, and is expected to give a boost to the zoo’s revenues.

Sophon Damnui, the director of the Zoological Organization of Thailand, talks during a demonstration of the new mobile marketing unit for Chiang Mai zoo.
The project’s official launch was headed up by the director of the Zoological Organisation of Thailand, Sophon Damnui. He stated that the 8 million baht mobile unit includes wireless equipment for broadcasting real-time events at the zoo concerning its main attractions, such as pandas and its new aquarium, and a 3D theatre which will show adventure movies and wildlife documentaries. The project will also target rural communities who may not be aware of the zoo and its attractions.


Row erupts again over plans for Ping River floodgate

Saksit Meesubkwang
An attempt to agree a memorandum of understanding (MOU), concerning the construction and management of a proposed new floodgate project along the Ping River in Saraphi district has ended in disagreement, due to fears by local people that construction would disrupt the functioning of the traditional weirs in their area.
The project, which was initiated as a way to solve both flood and drought problems in the area and to improve Chiang Mai city’s water treatment system, had previously met with local antagonism for the same reasons, resulting in public hearings and a suggested solution intended to suit both sides.
The MOU stated that, although the proposed construction of the floodgate would go ahead, the three weirs would not be demolished, and the management of the floodgate would be able to be carried out by a committee including representatives of the local waterside community. Representatives of two of the affected areas disapproved of the new proposals and insisted that they should consult further with local residents; the representatives of the third area agreed with the proposals, thus causing a conflict.
Subsequently, the meeting, the eleventh during the dispute, was called to an end to prevent further argument, with those in opposition to the MOU being asked to give their final decisions by May 10. If an agreement is not reached on that date, the provincial authority will submit the project to the cabinet for approval.


Empress Hotel hosts international conference on development project impact assessment

Saksit Meesubkwang
Last week, the Empress Hotel’s Conference Centre was the venue for an international conference on the health impact assessment of development projects, attended by representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Switzerland, Vietnam, Thailand and the World Health Organisation.

One of the keynote speakers addresses the conference.
The event was jointly hosted by a number of concerned Thai governmental, academic and other organisations, both local and national, including the Ministry of Public Health , Khon Kaen University, Chiang Mai University , the National Economic and Social Advisory Council and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.
The aim of the forum, as stated by president of the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) commission, Dr Wiput Phoolcharoen, was to determine a format for the evaluation of the possible health impacts of development and the designation of best practices in recommendations with regard to development projects or public policies.
World Health Organisation representative, Dr Maureen Birmingham explained that the expected changes would act as environmental and social determinants of health, adding that, “Health safeguards and mitigating measures are cost-effective compared to the remedial measures needed afterwards.”
Dr. Wiput, referring to HIA, stated that, “It will also help project owners to better plan their investment, avoid costly risks and gain acceptance for projects from local communities.”
HIA will be heavily promoted as a tool leading to the improvement of public health, in order to encourage and ensure sustainable social and economic developments. Prachern Khontes, a member of the ‘We Love Tha Chin’ group, raised concerns that environmental assessment reports are often made by hired, non-local academics, with very little community participation, opening the possibility of slanted results.
Between April 22-24, lectures by experts describing the results of regional case studies in and around Chiang Mai and Lamphun were given. One such study involved water resources management in the north and the effect of the construction of weirs and dams on local life, with the irrigation systems of the Ping River’s waterfront developments given as an example.
Other cases studied included a sustainable community agricultural project carried out in Chiang Mai province, and a project for the health care of workers in factories outside the industrial system, which involved the wood-working communities of Ban Tawai.
Lastly, delegates considered the ‘Chiang Mai Declaration’, a joint commitment by all relevant working agencies and international organisations to support HIA as a tool to enable public policy and joint development projects in the region to be determined in a manner which will protect both public health and the environment.


Toeless train robber arrested in hospital

CMM reporters
An unlucky thief who stole cash and a valuable gold necklace from a woman travelling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok by the overnight train on April 7 was arrested by police while receiving treatment in hospital for severed toes.
Atthapol Maenkrathok, 42, had clearly panicked after his successful mugging of the female passenger, and had jumped the moving train in Uttaradit province, leaving behind a bag of tools containing his identity card. Clumsily, he had caught his foot under the train’s wheels, which severed all five of his toes. Once the theft had been reported, his ID card, together with his toes, found by police on the track, quickly led officers to a nearby hospital, where he was arrested.
Atthapol is now under investigation for his involvement in 18 other robberies on overnight trains after police found 20 cell phones, 8 cameras, 9 watches and 52 religious amulets while searching his home. A clear case of ‘Don’t give up the day job!’