Vol. VIII No. 18 - Tuesday
May 5 - May 11, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Kingdom celebrates Coronation Day

Swine flu - 22 Mexican tourists being tracked by immigration

Legal confusion prevents progress with new Mayoral election

Lamphun Industrial Estate pollution under fire again

Heavy rain and speeding causes multiple crashes on mountainous road

Chiang Rai officials foil drug delivery by registered post

More red shirt leaders surrender to Chiang Mai police

Freckles on hand identify British child sex tourist

Border gunfight results in death of drug trafficker

 

Kingdom celebrates Wan Chatramongkhol (Coronation Day) May 5

Photo courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household.

Photo courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household.

The Chiang Mai Mail and the people of Chiang Mai are honoured to congratulate His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great on the 59th anniversary of His coronation on May 5, 1850.
This Tuesday, May 5, is the 59th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great’s coronation, although HM the King had ascended to the throne on June 9, 1946. Wan Chatramongkhol (Coronation Day) is celebrated both in Thailand and by Thais scattered around the world, and is observed as a national holiday, with banks and government offices being closed. (Photo courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Houshold.)
During his coronation, the new King of Thailand, the Ninth Monarch of the Chakri Dynasty (Rama IX) took a sacred oath, “to rule with Righteousness, for the Benefit and Happiness of the Siamese People”, an oath to which he has been magnificently loyal, garnering tremendous respect not only from his own people but from the world at large. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great is the world’s longest reigning monarch. Long Live the King!
His Majesty the King, after finishing his studies in Europe, returned to Thailand and was crowned King during an elaborate and highly intricate ceremony that outshone all previous coronations in Thailand. On April 28, 1950, a week before his coronation on May 5, H.M. King Bhumibol and Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitayakara were married.
The elaborate ceremony itself reinforces the stature of the Kings of Thailand, with the first such having been performed when Pho Khun Phamuang succeeded Pho Khun Bangklangthao as the ruling King of Muang Sukhothai. Phaya Lithai, a former leader in Sukhothai, left a historical record in stone describing the coronation ceremony in Sukhothai at Wat Srikhum.
At the beginning of the Ratanakosin era, King Buddha Yot Fa Chulalokmaharach, founder of the Chakri Dynasty, took the title of Rama I, moving the capital of Siam from Thonburi to the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River, and constructing Krung Ratanakosin, (Bangkok). During the process of building the Royal Palace and Wat Prakaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Rama 1 refined the coronation ceremony, establishing important protocols which have lasted to this day. All successive Kings who did not follow the new ceremonial strictures would be unable to assume the term “Phrabat”. This title precedes the King’s title of “Somdej Phrachaoyuhua”, and, more significantly, use of the symbol of the nine-tiered umbrella would also not be permissible or officially recognized.
The elaborate coronation ceremony of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great included all the ancient rituals required for assuming the full title and the nine-tiered umbrella. King Bhumibol Adulyadej then bestowed the honour posthumously on His late brother, King Ananda Mahidol. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s benevolent act raised King Ananda Mahidol’s regal status from a seven to a nine-tiered umbrella.
During the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV), Buddhist monks and Brahmin priests were incorporated into the coronation ceremony to conduct rituals to sanctify the auspicious occasion. Previously the ceremony was arranged and conducted by the Royal Palace staff and members of the Royal Household.
The annual remembrance of the coronation ceremony is currently a three day affair, starting with a ritual “tham bun” ceremony on May 3 to honour the King’s ancestors. Later on the first day, another ceremony is performed, whereby flags of honour are issued to distinguish various military units.
The following day, Buddhist ceremonies continue with chanting rituals, prayers and Brahman priests announcing the auspicious occasion forthcoming on May 5 itself. On that day, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej conducts a merit-making ceremony, presenting offerings to Buddhist monks, and leading a “Wienthien” ceremony, walking three times around sacred grounds at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
On the same evening, the King conducts a further sacred ceremony; the changing of the yellow cloth on the Emerald Buddha, the guardian symbol protecting the Thai people, transferred from Thonburi to Wat Phra Kaew by Rama I.
Many rooms in the Royal Palace are opened for public viewing on Coronation Day. Auspicious ceremonies are performed and displays depicting Royal achievements are exhibited to reconfirm the King’s stature.

 

Swine flu - 22 Mexican tourists being tracked by immigration

Tourists pass through a thermal scanner erected at the entrance to Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Monday, April 27. Thailand has installed thermal scanners at all its major airports to screen travellers for symptoms of the potentially fatal swine flu virus. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Saksit Meesubkwang
During the administration’s weekly press release, it was revealed that Dr. Wattana Kanchanakamol from the Chiang Mai Public Health Department had reported that the Immigration department were involved in tracking down 22 Mexican tourists who had arrived in Chiang Mai for the Songkran festival just before the outbreak of swine flu in their country of origin.
In order to protect against incoming infection with the virus, an infra-red sensor has been installed at Chiang Mai International Airport. In the event of the detection of any passengers with a temperature range within the specified limits, the persons concerned will be placed in quarantine and checked for the virus.
An average of 1,000 passengers per day arrive at the airport on direct flights, however, at the present time, none are arriving from countries where the presence of the virus has been confirmed. The official information is that there is no need for residents to be alarmed.


Legal confusion prevents progress with new Mayoral election

An interview with Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai.

Phitsanu Thepthong/
Elena Edwards
In its April 7 issue, the Chiang Mai Mail reported that one requirement for the qualifications of our city’s Mayor, Captain Dr Duen­temduang na Chiengmai, to run for office in the last election had, according to a ruling by the Bangkok Supreme Administrative Court, been based on an inaccuracy and had therefore contravened Thai election law.  The ruling was made in support of a similar decision by the Chiang Mai Electoral Commission, made in 2007, and resulted in Dr. Duentemduang’s disqualification as elected mayor of this city after already serving 18 months of her 4-year term.
The Chiang Mai Electoral Commission’s original ruling had been given as the result of a complaint made before the 2007 election; subsequently, as an appeal had been made to the Bangkok court by Dr. Duentemduang, enabling her to continue to run for office, she won the election with a landslide vote.  Her victory, however, was conditional on a positive appeal decision.  When her appeal failed, information was given out that a further election would be held within 45 days.

The Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai (centre)
chats with the editors of the Chiang Mai Mail during the interview. (Photo/Jittraporn Charasrum)

When, after 3 weeks, no notification of a further election was given, the Chiang Mai Mail requested an interview with Dr. Duentemduang, to which she graciously consented.  In this interview, our reporter asked her about the reasons behind the delay in announcing another election.  These are her replies to this and a further question.
CMM:
  Dr. Duentemduang, many residents in the city, both Thai and farang, are grateful for the measures you have introduced during your brief term as Mayor, and are concerned that the city’s wellbeing may be under threat due to the present circumstances.  We would appreciate your comments in clarification of the background to this unusual situation.
Mayor:
  Yes, of course. The situation is unusual in that this has never happened before in Thailand, and is therefore causing a great deal of confusion regarding interpretation of the law.
The requirements which must be satisfied before a candidate stands for election include a provable ‘residential qualification’ in the city of not less than one year before an electoral campaign begins.  The wording of the law on this matter is ambiguous, making its exact interpretation difficult.  For example, it does not seem to be clear whether ‘residency’ depends on owning land or a home, or renting a home.
In my case, I have been a resident in the city for almost all of my 37 years; at the time of my election campaign, I was able to provide a local tax receipt for a period of more than 3 years in a rented property within the boundaries of the area for which a Mayor has responsibility.  This, and the fact of renting rather than owning, had been considered, in 2003, adequate according to the Bangkok court.  It would now appear that the court has changed its mind, and that, at least, ownership of land within the area is considered necessary.
The Electoral Commission in Chiang Mai confirmed my position as Mayor of Chiang Mai for the full, 4 year term of office; as the Electoral Commission in Bangkok has not yet issued any binding statement due to the legal complications, I am still the Mayor of Chiang Mai.  As such, may I assure residents that basic duties are still being performed pending a final decision.  However, after the court’s original announcement, I decided to take a one month vacation, although I remained available here in the city.  I shall return to work on May 7, and await further developments or rulings from Bangkok.
CMM:
  Dr. Duentemduang, do you have any idea when, or if, a further election will take place, and, if it does, will you be standing again?
Mayor:
  At the present moment, it is too soon to announce an election date, as no final decisions have been made concerning this unusual situation.  Presumably, the court in Bangkok will request the Governor of Chiang Mai to announce a date for a further election, if necessary, when it finishes its deliberations.
I was elected by the people of Chiang Mai for a term of 4 years …I have served for less than half that time, and have still so much to do for this city.  I must run again, in the hope that I am given the opportunity to finish my work, as I need more time to continue to improve the quality of life in Chiang Mai for its citizens.
Recycling and rubbish disposal, for which a new contract is due to be issued, is a priority, as is pollution, drought, flooding, clean water for all, street lighting, vehicle emissions control, and many other issues which affect residents’ daily lives.
The integration of technology into the city’s infrastructure - taking the best from the West without losing the unique Lanna history and culture of the city - is essential, as it will make residents’ lives easier and vastly improve facilities.  Another essential is the integration of all the city’s diverse communities.
CMM:
 Dr. Duentemduang, thank you so much for taking time to explain your position to our readers.


Lamphun Industrial Estate pollution under fire again

CMM reporters
Villagers from 18 communities located adjacent to the Lamphun Industrial Estate are up in arms about the lack of results from numerous complaints concerning industrial and environmental pollution from the estate made to concerned authorities over a period of some years. In spite of assurances by factory owners that they are no longer causing pollution, the villagers insist that people’s health in the area is still being damaged by emissions, contaminated waste, and polluted water.
When the industrial estate was set up 26 years ago, local residents were assured that agro businesses would occupy the units. Today, heavy manufacturing industries in the electronics, automobile parts sectors, together with leather goods and jewellery manufacturers, employ over 48,000 workers on the 1,788 rai estate, only 38% of whom are Lamphun residents.
The first river to be affected by industrial discharges was the Mae Kuang, which also flows through Chiang Mai, and is regarded as the area’s lifeblood by villagers. Massive fish deaths are common, with the river turning red and emitting an unpleasant smell when waste water from the factories is discharged. During the dry season, factories on the estate pump water from the river, leaving none for domestic or agricultural use. Tests have shown that underground water is contaminated with heavy metals, making it unfit for use.
The Hariphunchai Research Institute, based in Lamphun, has reported that research into the health of workers on the industrial estate during 2007 had revealed many health defects. 24% of the workers were afflicted with eyesight problems, 17% had developed hearing disorders, over 3,700 workers showed abnormal blood cell counts, 426 suffered from lung ailments and 813 had liver problems. High levels of lead and chromium were detected in some workers’ blood.
Pairoj Hathakam, the Lamphun Industrial Estate’s director, however, refutes the villagers’ claims, saying that whenever there are health or pollution problems, local factories are always blamed, stating that, “We welcome all investigations into the pollution allegations. We have a perfect laboratory to check the water quality before any discharging is done. We check our water quality around the clock.”


Heavy rain and speeding causes multiple crashes on mountainous road

On the same road on Doi Nangkaew, a crash between a 10-wheel lorry and
a pickup truck occurred, along with several other accidents in which trucks,
cars and jeeps were damaged. (Photo by Jittraporn Charasrum)

CMM reporters
Local police have blamed heavy rain on the main mountain road bordering Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, Highway 118, for at least five accidents on Sunday April 26.
According to a police spokesperson, drivers were, in the main, very careful, but the combination of gradient and dangerously slippery road conditions after a period of prolonged rain had proved too much for some, particularly tourists to whom the road was unfamiliar. Police also stated that some vehicles, in spite of the conditions, were being driven at high speeds.
At midday on April 26, a collision occurred between a car and a pickup truck in the area of Tambon Mae Suay, during which both vehicles overturned. Minor injuries were sustained by Surasee Thananchai, 35, a staff member at Chiang Rai Rajabhat University, and his two relatives, and also by the Indian driver of the car and his passenger.


Chiang Rai officials foil drug delivery by registered post

CMM reporters
A report was received April 29 by Chiang Rai Immigration at Mae Sai concerning a white pickup truck which was being used to transport drugs to Mae Sai Post Office for forwarding to customers. A team from Immigration and the Narcotics Suppression Bureau police was immediately sent to the post office. The white pickup truck was identified; however, its occupants fled the scene.
On inspection, police discovered a package which Post Office workers confirmed was to be sent by registered post. The package description was ‘amplifiers’. When it was opened, a plastic pack with 60,200 amphetamine pills was found concealed in the back of one of the four amplifiers. The package was addressed to Sukanya Thaichamnian, Moo 7, Klongtakod, Photaram, Ratburi, and was being sent by Luang Thongjai, at Moo 10, Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, an incomplete address.
Further enquires are being made as to the identities of the two named persons and their locations in order to arrest them for possession of Class 1 drugs with intent to distribute.


More red shirt leaders surrender to Chiang Mai police

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following the recent closure of Thapae Road due to a protest by Rak Chiang Mai 51 red shirts and a number of their vehicles and songthaews, police issued arrest warrants for two more of their leaders.
Mana Phanpaiboon, alias DJ Ped, and Paiboon Chuchai, alias DJ Loong Boon, were accompanied on their surrender at Chiang Mai Muang Police Station by Sunai Chullapongsathorn, the Puea Thai Party MP, who posted bail for the pair in the sum of 15,000 baht each. The pair were cheered on and given flowers by a number of their supporters.
Both men were charged under articles 116 and 215 of Thai law, and accused of causing unrest in the kingdom, gathering in a group of more than 10 people, causing disorder and parking their vehicles in an unsafe manner which hindered traffic.
Several more suspects, for whom arrest warrants have been issued, including Paiboon Chuchai, Mana Phanpaiboon and Suraphol Suphangkharat, are expected to surrender in the near future. Singkham Nanti and Thanin Pradithphan have already given themselves up to police. Suraphol has stated that he will surrender when he has concluded his business in Laos.


Freckles on hand identify British child sex tourist

CMM reporters
A British child sex tourist was recently sentenced in the UK to 6 years in prison after police identified his freckled hand, shown touching young Thai girls in pornographic photographs stored on his computer
A police investigation proved without doubt that Dean Hardy, 50, had travelled to Thailand for the purpose of child sex abuse. Hardy had photographed the abuse, and stored the pictorial record of his illegal activities on his computer.
While searching his home, police found 63 images stored, and were able to analyse the electronic data in the picture files to verify the date they were taken. A cross-reference with Hardy’s passport and credit card statements showed that he had been in Thailand at that time.
Final proof was obtained when forensic experts matched the freckled hand in the photographs with that of Hardy.
Two of the photographs showed indecent assault by an adult male of Thai girls between the ages of 8 and 10. Before sentencing Hardy, Judge Gregory Stone stated that, “This was sex tourism of the most offensive kind.” Hardy showed no reaction to his 6 year sentence.


Border gunfight results in death of drug trafficker

CMM reporters
Intelligence reports that a number of armed men were escorting drug smugglers across the Burmese border in Chiang Rai province resulted in soldiers from the Third Army’s Phamuang task force being sent to the heavily forested area.
Having realised that they were surrounded, the smugglers and their five armed minders opened fire, resulting in a gun battle lasting 15 minutes during which one smuggler was killed. The remainder of the group ran off into dense jungle. An assault rifle was found lying next to the dead man and YaBa pills were found in his clothing. He was later identified as Jaka Jaseepai, 30, a Black Muser villager living locally; a search of his house revealed a gun, 15 bullets and a bullet-proof vest.
Local police have stated that the dead man was a member of a group of traffickers led by Jakulae Jasuepue, who is being sought on an arrest warrant.



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