Thousands gather at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep for Visakha Bucha Day
The road sneaks its way through 14 kilometres of forest. Guided by
the moon light, thousands of people walk together, up the mountain. Children
silently hold the hands of their parents, teenagers listen to their iPods
while they silently put one foot in front of the other, students joke the
time away … given the choice, a Thai will probably prefer to ride his bike
rather than walk 200 meters. And yet there are special occasions when they
don’t balk at walking. Visakha Bucha Day is one of them.
Mai deputy governor, Chumporn Sangmanee, officially opens the Visakha Bucha
Day ceremonies, May 7, 2009.
Visakha Bucha Day is one of the three most important Buddhist days in
Thailand and happens during the Full Moon in May. This year, it fell on
Thursday May 8. This special day commemorates the birth, the Enlightenment
and the passing-away of Buddha. For the occasion, Thai people will make
merit and gather in temples to pray.
But the most impressive event happens on the eve of Visakha Bucha Day. On
May 7 at 7 p.m., Thai people gathered by the thousands at CMU to walk up to
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is said to house relics of the Buddha
The walk was long but never boring. Free food stalls were packed along the
way; freshmen from Rajamangala University were running and chanting, led by
their senior; monks were strategically located along the way to encourage
people to make merit and pray. Even though people didn’t talk so much
together, all experienced the feeling of community and belonging that
permeated the atmosphere.
Most people arrived at the temple around midnight, after a 3 to 5 hour walk,
for the first moments of Visakha Bucha Day. The newly-renovated Chedi was
shining and people crowded under its shadow, walking silently around it
three times, holding in their hands lotus flowers, candles and incense
sticks. Once completed, they were able to make their way back home … walking
for the most courageous ones, sitting in a red truck for the rest of us.
Back at the university at 2 a.m., people could still be seen starting the
hike up the mountain - they would arrive just in time for the 7 a.m.
ceremony at the temple.
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi
held in prison
Yangon (AP) - Myanmar’s jailed democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
insists she is not guilty of violating her house arrest, her lawyer said
last Friday, as a clearer picture emerged of the American who swam to her
home and kicked off the junta’s latest crackdown.
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, seen here in this 2007 file photo, was
due to be put on trial Monday in connection with the intrusion of an
American who sneaked uninvited into her compound. (AP Photo/Myanmar News
Ahead of Suu Kyi’s trial this past Monday, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate
spent the night at the country’s notorious Insein Prison where she is being
held in a “guest house” within the compound during her trial proceedings,
said her lawyer Kyi Win.
Worldwide condemnation has poured in since Suu Kyi was charged last Thursday
with breaking the terms of her years long detention, just two weeks before
she was due to be released. Her trial was scheduled to be held at a special
court at the prison, which has held numerous political prisoners over the
World leaders, human rights groups and fellow Nobel laureates denounced the
move as an attempt by the military junta to silence its chief opponent ahead
of next year’s election - which will be the first since Suu Kyi’s party won
elections in 1990 that the junta refused to recognize.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon condemned the charges and called for Suu Kyi’s immediate release.
“If the 2010 elections are to have any semblance of credibility, she and all
political prisoners must be freed to participate,” British Prime Minister
Gordon Brown said.
The Singapore government said it “is dismayed” by the charges against Suu
Kyi, one of the few criticisms to come from Myanmar’s neighbors in Southeast
Asia, who abide by a much-criticized policy of not interfering in each
The charges follow a mysterious visit to her home by John William Yettaw,
53, an American who swam across a lake and sneaked into her home seeking
food and a place to rest.
It was the second time Yettaw had made the trip after swimming across the
lake last summer, but on that visit the house staff kept him from speaking
to Suu Kyi, his wife, Betty Yettaw told The Associated Press in an interview
outside her home near Camdenton in southern Missouri.
“I think that’s what motivated him to go back. He thought he could be in and
out,” she said, describing her husband as eccentric but peace loving and
“not political at all.”
Before making the latest trip, Yettaw left his 10-year-old and three
teenagers with friends, then visited his former wife in California last
month and told her he had to go to Asia to work on a psychology paper about
forgiveness, according to his ex-wife Yvonne Yettaw.
John Yettaw belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,
commonly known as the Mormons, said Yvonne Yettaw, adding that it was
unlikely he was in Southeast Asia to proselytize for the church or convert
the Nobel laureate.
Yvonne Yettaw, speaking from Palm Springs, California, told the AP that her
ex-husband lived on veteran’s disability benefits, supplemented by
occasional construction work. She said he had been studying psychology and
writing a paper about forgiveness after trauma, and went to Southeast Asia
for research but he was “real secretive” about his journey.
Suu Kyi has already spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention without trial
for her nonviolent promotion of democracy. She was scheduled to be freed May
27 after six consecutive years of house arrest but now faces up to five
years in prison if convicted of violating the terms of her detention, said
one of her lawyers, Hla Myo Myint.
“Daw Suu understands the law and told me, ‘I did not break the law,” said
her chief lawyer Kyi Win, who met with Suu Kyi last Thursday. “Daw” is a
term of respect for older women.
“She did not contact the swimmer, he came in as an intruder and she’s not
guilty,” said Kyi Win, who attended the Thursday arraignment and met with
According to the restriction order under which Suu Kyi is held, she is
prohibited from having contact with embassies, political parties and
“associated persons” and she is barred from communicating with the outside
world by telephone or mail, he said.
Myanmar citizens are required to report overnight visitors to local
authorities but Suu Kyi’s “did not report him because she did not want to
see anyone arrested because of her.”
Yettaw was arrested May 6 for allegedly swimming across a lake to secretly
enter Suu Kyi’s home and staying there for two days. He was brought to the
same courtroom last Thursday as Suu Kyi and charged with illegally entering
a restricted zone, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison,
and breaking immigration laws, which is punishable by up to one year in
The junta scheduled elections as part of its so-called “roadmap to
democracy,” but the effort is widely perceived as a guise for continued
Parliamentary rule was overthrown by a coup in 1962, and the army has been
in control since then. It held an election in 1990 but refused to honor the
results after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a
in quarantine with flu symptoms
A boy in Phitsanulok province was quarantined last week after showing
symptoms of influenza as he returned from a study exchange in a country
where influenza A H1N1 had been detected.
Provincial deputy public health official, Thongpoon Taesombat, revealed that
the boy had a high fever and was quarantined and put under observation at
Buddha Chinnarat Hospital. The province’s medical sciences centre was
conducting laboratory tests to determine whether he was carrying the H1N1
Last Thursday morning, Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said that
a teacher in the central province of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya who recently
returned from a trip to Europe was also quarantined and under observation
after showing symptoms of influenza. However, laboratory tests later cleared
the teacher of carrying the killer virus and officials stated that it was
more likely seasonal flu.
Meanwhile, Siriraj Hospital announced it had successfully detected an
influenza A H1N1 virus for the first time after the Department of Medical
Sciences provided a sample of the virus to the hospital and at the same time
to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for testing.
Dr. Theerawat Kulthanant, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj
Hospital, and Dr. Prasert Thongcharoen, president of the Virology
Association (Thailand) jointly held a press conference confirming the
success of engineering the first influenza A H1N1 test kit by Thai experts,
a significant advance which means the virus can now be identified and
confirmed without recourse to external tests.
They said that the hospital’s laboratory took three days to verify the virus
before confirming the first case here of influenza A.
They added that the success will lead to the further development of a test
kit which will provide an initial test result for influenza A within 15
Both institutions will also continue their research to identify an influenza
A vaccine to control and prevent the disease in the future. (TNA)
Construction of new Chiang Mai shopping mall to go ahead
Dutch real estate development and investment group, ECC, is looking to take
advantage of reduced land and construction prices in Thailand to develop a
series of retail projects under the Promenada brand name.
Announced in March this year, the Promenada Chiang Mai will offer 75,000
square metres of up-scale retail and entertainment space when it opens in
the second half of 2011. ECC is now planning similar projects for Bangkok.
According to ECC’s CEO, Tjeert Kwant, “Previously, property assets were
overvalued; however, recently prices have started to normalize, giving us
some hope of being able to make our moves.”
The Promenada Chiang Mai represents an investment of 3.1 billion baht and
when open, it will employ 3,000 people. Construction is scheduled to start
in the second half of 2009. To help finance further projects in Thailand and
across Southeast Asia, ECC is launching a $250 million investment fund, ECC
Retail Investment Holdings.
Is she or isn’t she?
Staff at Chiang Mai Zoo, including its director, Sopon Damnuy, are
waiting with bated breath to find out whether female Panda, Lin Hui, is
pregnant after her mating with her partner on February 17.
So far, Lin Hui has shown signs of pregnancy, such as eating and sleeping
more and preferring to stay on her own in her den. A second ultrasound
examination was carried out by veterinary experts on May 11, but proved
inconclusive. If the famous female has not conceived, her behaviour will
return to normal in around two months.
The initial tests performed on Lin Hui detected a hormone ratio of 300
nanogrammes per milligramme, a creatinin ratio of 440 nanogrammes per
milligram, and a thickening of the walls of the uterus; all hopeful signs.
However, pandas can undergo bodily and behavioural changes associated with
pregnancy when they ovulate but fail to conceive, with females only coming
into heat for a few days once a year, and no reliable pregnancy test for
pandas. Due to the likelihood of a false pregnancy, the mystery can continue
until the last minute.
Lin Hiu will be given another ultrasound after two weeks, with experts and
professors from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok attending her check-up.
Meanwhile, staff from the zoo are being sent to China to receive instruction
on caring for newly-born panda cubs.
There are only an estimated 800 to 1,000 pandas left in the wild, and they
are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, with females being
particularly picky about mates.
Lin Hui undergoes tests at Chiang Mai Zoo
to determine if she is indeed pregnant.
Fierce fire destroys Phrae OTOP
Centre, causing 2 million baht losses
A disastrous fire broke out in the early hours of the morning of
May 3 at the Wam Nam Yong ‘One Tambon, one Product’ (OTOP) furniture
centre in Phrae, destroying 20 furniture shops containing teakwood
products. Damage caused is estimated at 2 million baht, but cannot be
accurately totalled until the shop-owners are able to take an inventory.
The fire, thought to be caused by an electrical fault, quickly engulfed
the building, in spite of the efforts of officers with 5 fire engines
from Don Moon fire station, who fought the blaze for an hour before
bringing it under control.
A witness report stated that the blaze began in the first showroom, the
owner of which was absent, and had left his lights on overnight. A
single electric wire connected the shops; it is believed that a
short-circuit may have occurred, which went unnoticed as there ware no
security staff in the building at night. Investigations to determine the
cause of the fire are continuing.
Pubs, bars and clubs under fire for breaches of licensing laws
Bars, nightclubs, karaoke establishments and pubs are under fire
for continuing to break laws contained in the Service and Excise acts
relating to closing times, fire regulations and other issues, following
a meeting with chiefs of all district administration offices called by
the new Chiang Mai Governor, Amornpan Nimanan.
The deputy governor of Chiang Mai, Pairoj Saengphuwong, stated that laws
concerning the operation of bars and karaoke establishments must be
enforced, including those opening during daytime hours, with ‘best
procedures’ being used so as not to affect local residents.
The Ministry of the Interior has ordered the provincial authority to set
up a special operations team in accordance with the province’s Social
Order policy, and that all 100 licensed entertainment venues should be
inspected. During several random inspections which have already taken
place, as many as 10 venues have been found to pose risks to customers,
similar to those in the Santika Pub in Bangkok which burned down last
January, causing many deaths and injuries.
During the meeting, Chiang Mai Administration’s permanent secretary,
Surachai Chongrak, stated that the Muang district of the city was known
for its cooperation with officials regarding inspections of
entertainment premises, and has invited all owners of such venues to
discuss further cooperation in order to avoid any breaches of current
The proposed opening of entertainment venues in front of Rajabhat Chiang
Mai University will be discouraged, as it may create the wrong image for
the institution, and unlicensed venues, when found, will be closed
according to the law.
A team of lawyers is being established in order to deal with any
objections to or claims against the closure of venues operating outside
refugee villager seriously wounded from land-mine
A resident from a Burmese refugee village in a border area near
Mae Hong Son, inhabited by the Wa National and Shan State Armies, was
seriously wounded when he stepped on a land-mine.
La Wun, 38, had been fishing on the evening of May 4 with friends near
Huay Kha landing on the Salween River in the Ban Hua Muang Special
Territory area in Shan State, Myanmar. On their way back to their home
village through a forested area near the new strategic Doi Lan -Ta Sob
Teng road, constructed along the eastern banks of the Salween River, La
Wun stepped on an M-14 mine, which exploded and seriously damaged his
ankle and foot. The area is known to have a high concentration of
His friends carried the injured man to the border with Mae Hong Son,
carefully avoiding Burmese soldiers, and arrived at approximately 10
p.m. on May 10, from where La Wun was taken to a Mae Hong Son hospital
Japan provides funds for new Mae Taeng village bridge
The Japanese government’s Grant Assistance for Grass Roots Human
Security Projects (GGP) has provided the sum of 1,500,000 baht to
rebuild a bridge in Mae Taeng, which was destroyed during severe floods
in September 2004 when a local dam burst.
The resulting rush of water caused an avalanche of rocks and soil to
sweep down on the area, causing severe damage and flooding, including
the destruction of a bridge linking two villages. Although post-disaster
reconstruction was implemented in the province, the sum provided did not
cover the reconstruction of the bridge. Residents subsequently built a
makeshift bridge with logs and bamboo; however, it was dangerously
unstable and its replacement became a matter of urgency.
Having been made aware of the problem, GGP agreed to supply the
necessary funds, and on May 14 Chiang Mai’s Japanese Consul-General,
Junko Yokota, together with Wirach Thima, chief of the local
administration, declared the rebuilt bridge open.
The new bridge will ensure safe passage between the two villages and
convenient access to educational and medical facilities, as well as an
exchange of people and products.
From now on, the local administration will be responsible for the
maintenance of the bridge, and, in addition, a volunteer disaster
prevention group organised by residents of both villages will monitor
the water levels and cut grass on the river banks.
TAT Chiang Mai’s director expects increased tourism later in year
The director of TAT’s Chiang Mai Office, Chalermsak Suranant, is
expecting that, as 70% of visitors to the city are Thai, tourist numbers
will begin to pick up as early as the second half of 2009 due to the
easing of the political situation resulting in the cancellation of
Bangkok’s state of emergency.
He added that strong measures to promote international tourism were also
being taken, including Chiang Mai’s Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Roadshow to be held this month in South Korea with the cooperation of
the central TAT office.
An innovative ’Je t’aime’ event will be held in Chiang Mai on June
18-22, involving both the local TAT and the Paris TAT offices, in which
15 couples will be invited to take their marriage vows in a special
ceremony. For the event, actors and well-known writers from wedding
magazines will be invited to attend.
Night Safari and Pattaya agree to joint tourism promotion
Chiang Mai Night Safari’s director of
marketing and public relations, Panchak Bulsataporn (2nd left), meets
with Pattaya City Mayor, Ittipon Khunpluem (2nd right) during Panchak’s
visit to Pattaya to promote tourism in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Night Safari’s director of marketing and public relations,
Panchak Bulsataporn, recently visited Pattaya’s Region 5 Travel Fest
Season of the East to promote the Night Safari and the giant aquarium at
Chiang Mai Zoo.
The Travel Fest, held between April 30 and May 3, featured twin package
deals involving both Chiang Mai attractions, all of which were sold by
the second day of the event.
In his speech, Panchak said his visit to the coastal tourist town was as
a representative of the Night Safari, the Chiang Mai Tourism Business
and the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, and that his aim was to link the
eastern, northern and , in the future, international tourism markets.
In his reply, the Pattaya City mayor, Ittipon Khunpluem, agreed to
promote the tourist attractions of both regions, and to give his support
to the establishment of flights between Chiang Mai and U-Tapao airports.
He was also happy to promote Chiang Mai’s upcoming Grand Sale 2009,
which will take place from May 31 to August 2, on Pattaya cable TV’s
Good Life station.
Ancient Royal ploughing ceremony predicts abundant food, proper amount of water
The sacred oxen, Fah and Sai Oxen are guided
by royal attendants during Royal Ploughing ceremonies held in Bangkok on
AP Photos by Sakchai Lalit
Thailand’s traditional soothsayers predict an abundance of food
production in the kingdom during the coming year, and a proper supply of
water - with plentiful rice yields – after divining the signs indicated
in the royal ploughing ceremony last Monday, marking the beginning of
the planting season.
The ceremony was presided over by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha
Vajiralongkorn, representing His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
of Agriculture Jaranthada Kanasut leading the procession scatters sacred
seed rice during Royal Ploughing ceremonies.
Permanent Secretary for Agriculture and Cooperatives Charanthada
Kannasuta, who served in the Brahman ceremony from ancient India as the
Lord of the Plough, was offered three pieces of folded cloth of
different lengths and he selected one of medium length. Based on his
selection, proper water supply, with plentiful food and rice were
The sacred oxen, Fah and Sai, ate grass and sesame seeds and the Brahmin
seers accordingly interpreted the actions as meaning there will be an
abundance of food and average water supply in the kingdom of Thailand
during the coming year.
Charanthada is serving as the Lord of the Plough for the last time as he
will retire at the end of September.
The royal ploughing ceremony is an ancient Indian Brahmanic rite, in
which sacred oxen plough a furrow at the Sanam Luang ceremonial ground.
The ceremony has been performed in Thailand since the Sukhothai period,
some 700 years ago.
Four consecrated ladies carry gold and silver baskets filled with rice
seed, which they scatter into the newly-ploughed furrow. Walking
alongside the plough are official Brahmans from the royal court who are
chanting and blowing conch shells. (TNA)
The sacred oxen, chose to eat grass and
sesame seeds by which Brahmin
seers interpreted an abundance of food and average water.