NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Panda Lin Hui’s baby is born

Proposed new Mekong River bridge will further link China, Laos and Thailand

At Buddhist center, meditators caged with pythons

‘Chiang Mai Grand Sale 2009 ’ discounts expected to boost tourist revenue

Fighting between Burmese and Karenni armies intensifies

Mae Hong Son villagers in row with forestry officials

Falling prices, increased costs cause problems for local lychee growers

Youngsters pine for long-lost, heartless fathers

Using Thai wife as land purchase nominee is illegal, states Minister

Dam causes Doi Tao lake to dry up-tourism businesses failing

New CMU computer networking training and research centre opens

 

Panda Lin Hui’s baby is born

An amazing achievement for Chiang Mai Zoo

CMM reporters
Is she or isn’t she? She was! Lin Hui, the Chiang Mai Zoo’s female panda, (on loan from China with her mate since 2003), who recently received artificial insemination when it became evident that her mate, Xuang Xuang, wasn’t interested, delighted everyone when she gave birth to a baby panda last Wednesday!

A triumph for Chiang Mai Zoo – Lin Hui, pictured minutes after the successful birth.
Zoo staff were still not sure that Lin Hui was actually pregnant…even the results of a recent scan, as reported in this paper, were not conclusive. However, last Tuesday, she seemed nervous and reluctant to approach her keepers; subsequently, at 10.10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, she gave birth. The baby announced its arrival by screeching loudly, and its proud mother wouldn’t allow veterinarians to get near enough to determine its sex…another attempt will be made after a week. However, there is a strong rumour, based on skin colour and other indications, that the cub is female. According to veterinarians, the birth went well, with no complications, both mother and baby are doing well, and Lin Hiu seems to have no problems with breast-feeding her new cub. To guard against infection, the baby panda will not be introduced to the public for some time; however, video cameras will be set up in Lin Hui’s den to allow the public to see the new arrival.
The successful breeding is a triumph for Chiang Mai Zoo, given both the initial difficulties with the breeding pair and the uncertainty of breeding the species in captivity. Including Thailand, only three countries worldwide have used artificial insemination which has resulted in a live birth. The two pandas were a goodwill loan from China for a period of 10 years, with a clause that any offspring are returned to China at the age of 2 years. The zoo will be opening negotiations with the Chinese authorities for an extension to allow visitors more time to view the young panda.
The species is on the endangered list, with only approximately 3000 pandas living in the wild, although it is also estimated that numbers are slowly increasing. If Lin Hui’s baby can survive the risky first week of its life, its chances of growing to adulthood will improve to 100%.

 

Proposed new Mekong River bridge will further link China, Laos and Thailand

Siriporn Raweekoon
Wirun Khampilo, Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce president, announced recently that an auction for the construction contract of a new bridge over the Mekong River would be held at the end of this year. The cost of the bridge is estimated at approximately 1,600 million baht, and will be funded 50/50 by China and Thailand.

A computer-generated image of the proposed new 1,600 million baht bridge over the Mekong River.

When completed, the project, known as the Greater Mekong Sub-region, (GMS), North-South Economic Corridor International Bridge Project, (Houayxay-Chiang Khong), will link with Route 3, (East), running between Bangkok and Kunming, and should benefit commercial traffic between China, Thailand and Laos. The new bridge is expected to be completed by 2012, and will be located at Ban Don Maha Wan, Chiang Khong in Thailand and Ban Don Khee Nok, Houayxay, Bor Khaew in Laos.
Wirun expects that both the import of lignite from Lao and the export potential of Thai products to be stimulated by the new route.
Meanwhile, a second, larger port is under construction at Chiang Saen, in order to link Mekong River routes between China, Lao, Burma, and Thailand. The original Chiang Saen port is now overwhelmed by the increase in cross-border traffic.


At Buddhist center, meditators caged with pythons

Bangkok (AP) – Thai high school students on a school trip to a Buddhist meditation center were asked to lie in coffins primed with the stink of rotting flesh and share a cage with several pythons.
“Our purpose is for them to develop strength of mind,” Saifon Pandito, chief monk at the Ban Saphan Yao meditation center, said.
But Thai media reported a python tried to strangle a 15-year-old girl – an accusation Saifon denied.
Kasem Nuamkrut, principal of the school in northern Pichit province, also downplayed the reports, saying the snake “just crawled over her and wrapped its body around her before someone took it away.”
But he did call for the provincial governor to investigate the center.
Blindfolded student volunteers, the monk said, lay inside a coffin next to fake mummies for about 30 minutes. Rotten chicken was used to simulate the smell of dead bodies.
Others, also blindfolded, were caged with two to three pythons as well as imitation snakes. Saifon said students touched the snakes – fake and real – but the reptiles were not allowed to crawl over the meditators.
“If I knew this would happen, I wouldn’t have let them go,” said Kasem. He added, however, that none of the 400 freshmen who visited the center earlier this month suffered any lasting ill-effects.


‘Chiang Mai Grand Sale 2009 ’ discounts expected to boost tourist revenue

CMM reporters
Following the recent announcement of TAT’s golf promotion at selected courses of a single green fee of 800 baht from the beginning of May to June 30, a low-season long-term event entitled ‘Chiang Mai Grand Sale 2009’ will hopefully lure more visitors to the city.

Chanin Donavanik, Dusit International’s CEO (2nd left), with representatives from local government and tourism-related businesses during the recent press conference held at the Centara Duangtawan Hotel to announce the city’s Grand Sale.

According to Chiang Mai governor Amornphan Nimanant, the promotion will run from May 31until August 2, and will involve across the board discounts of between 30-70% at 100 participating hotels, 50 participating restaurants, 50 spas, 30 golf courses, 20 tourist attractions and various other venues yet to be announced. It is hoped that the Grand Sale will generate 100 million baht in revenue across the province.
Meanwhile, as the worldwide economic downturn continues to bite, and tourist numbers are reduced still further by the threat of swine flu, more than 100 hotels and resorts across Thailand are being offered for sale.
Major beach resorts such as Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya, whose local economies rely mainly on visitors, were the first to feel the effects, both of the economic crisis, the temporary closure of Suvarnabhumi airport and the political unrest. In the 2008-2009 high season, Phuket’s visitor numbers declined by 60% when compared to the previous year.
The hotels and resorts being sold are mainly located in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, and include one of Chiang Mai’s top luxury hotels, as well as three others. Chanin Donavanik, Dusit International’s CEO, expects the number to rise if the situation does not improve during the next two years.
As well as the unsurprising dearth of international visitors, domestic tourist numbers are also in decline, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand revising its projected figures for 2008 from 14.8 million to around 12 million.


Fighting between Burmese and Karenni armies intensifies

Khajohn Boonpath
Last week, as part of a campaign to eradicate the military wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party, (KNPP), based in Karenni State along the border with Mae Hong Son, Burmese soldiers from Doi Mai Deung base launched an attack on a Karenni Army camp located near Baan Mae Suay Au.
According to the sub-commander of the Karenni force, Chattawa Ong Mea, around 20 Burmese troops entered his camp, and were repelled during a shoot-out. Later, the camp was attacked again and bombed from the air. Chattawa further stated that the aim of the Burmese forces was to permanently eliminate all minority groups located inside Burma, and that 10 battalions from the Burmese Army are stationed in the area in order to destroy the Karenni Army’s last base at Yamu.
The Karenni Army is responding by using ambush and sabotage techniques, which are targeted at convoys of Burmese soldiers and weapons and also at convoys transporting food for the Burmese Army, which has sowed landmines on forest pathways used by local villagers when collecting food, causing injuries to innocent civilians, many of whom are at present being treated in Thai hospitals.
Divisions of the Thai Army stationed along the Burmese/Thai border have been warned that incursions into Thai territory by soldiers of either faction are likely to occur, and that these need to be dealt with swiftly in order to protect local Thai residents.


Mae Hong Son villagers in row with forestry officials

Khajohn Boonpath
Ham Lod village in the Pang Mapha district of Mae Hong Son was the scene of a confrontation on May 24 between villagers and forestry officials from Pai River Wildlife Sanctuary and the Pang Mapha Plant Conservation office.
Problems between the opposing sides had begun when, referring to his recent helicopter fly-over of the area, the deputy Minister of the Interior, Thaworn Senneam, had stated that trespassers were damaging the forest, particularly in water source areas, and had incorrectly blamed the villagers of Tham Lod for the damage. As a result, the head of the Pai River Wildlife Sanctuary, Suwit Naosawat, had ordered his officers to investigate. The officers had stormed into the village, destroying fences erected by the villagers and had tried to arrest a number of people for trespass.
However, the officers were confronted by 120 angry villagers and their headman, Saithong Rojjanasatitsilp, who accused them of over-reaction and refused to allow them to arrest any villagers. She stated that there had been no warning or negotiation about incursion into the forests, and that no prosecutions had been brought against hill tribe members who had trespassed on and reclaimed at least 10,000 rai of forest land.


Falling prices, increased costs cause problems for local lychee growers

CMM reporters
With the price of agricultural produce falling to the point that growers are experiencing problems in covering costs, the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives are searching for ways to increase successful marketing as a solution.

A worried local lychee grower with her produce at the recent 2-day ‘Lychee Festival’ held at Suan Buak Haad park in Chiang Mai.

The ministry’s total provincial distribution budget at present is 10 million baht; however, the local Agriculture Office’s budget may need to be increased in order to provide a full service in certain Chiang Mai districts. The Thai Camber of Commerce has instructed each local provincial chamber to purchase at least 1 tonne of fruit to alleviate falling prices, which can then be distributed in each province. The TCC itself will purchase 6-10 tonnes.
Speaking about the recent 2 day Lychee Festival held May 22-24 at Suan Buak Haad city park, Boonsong Meikamsuk, the local office’s agricultural expert, stated that during the project, 6 Chiang Mai districts, Amphur Muang, Fang, Maeai, Chai Prakarn, Mae Tang, and Mae Rim, had aimed to move at least 5,000 tons of the popular fruit. He added that the Agricultural office was cooperating with growers and agricultural specialists to establish methods of improving the quality of the product and lowering production costs.
The Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives is considering long-term solutions including establishing funds and supervising costs of all fruits grown in the province in order to relieve pressure on local growers caused by the falling prices.


Youngsters pine for long-lost, heartless fathers

CMM reporters
Reports that a 9 year- old Thai boy, whose Japanese father had lost touch with his family some years ago, is trying to trace his missing Dad, have spurred Chiang Mai teenager Narumi Bumrung and her mother, Sangrawee, to meet with the Japanese consul, Mashida Sato.
The 18 year old Chiang Mai Vocational College student is hoping she can be reunited with her father, Ryoichi Hamada, with whom she and her mother lost contact some years ago. Sangrawee, (44), met Hamada 20 years ago when they were both working at the Lamphun Industrial Estate, later moving to Japan. When Sangrawee found that she was pregnant and that she had developed thyroid problems, she returned to her family in Chiang Mai for the birth. As a result of her mother’s illness, Narumi was born with a speech deficiency.
The Japanese consul has confirmed that she will help Narumi to trace her father, and that the Japanese government will help. A representative from Chiang Mai’s Provincial Social Development and Human Security office has visited the family and will provide further assistance.
As a result of the same media reports, another Chiang Mai child has requested help in tracing his missing Japanese father. Yamato Niimura, a stateless 10 year old boy born to a Shan mother and a Japanese father, Masato Niimura, was abandoned at the age of 2 months when his mother died and his father returned to Japan. He is being brought up by a neighbour. It seems that his father, wishing to take him to Japan, was unable to complete the required documentation due to the Shan nationality of the child’s mother. He promised to return for the baby, but, sadly, was never seen again. Yamato says that he would like to meet his father, but will stay in Thailand with the family who have cared for him since his abandonment.
Meanwhile, Keigo Sato, the 9 year old boy whose story inspired Narumi to try to find her father, is receiving much-needed help in unexpected ways. His parents, Thipmontha and Katsumi Sato, were married at a temple in Phichit, having met in Bangkok. When Thipmontha became pregnant, the couple returned to Phichit to inform the family. Unfortunately, after Keigo’s birth, his mother left him with her family; the couple did not visit their son again for three years. Last year, terminally ill, Thipmontha told her son to wait at the temple where the couple had been married and his father would come.
Since his mother died, Keigo, now living with his aunt in Phichit, has waited at the temple almost every day, showing Japanese tourists a picture of his father and asking them if they know him. The answer is, always, ‘No’. The child’s sadness has touched everyone’s hearts; donations have poured in and his further education has been paid for by a scholarship awarded by a local residents’ association. A local company offered 3 return air tickets to Japan to further the search, and the Thai embassy in Tokyo was ordered to contact the Japanese government for information on Keigo’s father. Immigration and various Thai tour companies were also asked to search for information on Keigo’s father within their records.
Feelings have run so high that, due to his failure to offer help to the boy, the director of Phi chit’s Social Development and Human Security Office has been abruptly transferred to another province.
The Japanese embassy in Bangkok has now confirmed that a Katsumi Sato, (now 31 and living in Tokyo), married Thipmontha in 2000, and that the couple divorced in 2004. When contacted, Kasumi admitted that Keigo is his son, but, tragically, he does not wish to meet up with the boy, saying that he is uncomfortable with the publicity.
When the little boy was told that his father did not want to meet with him, or even to call him, he cried.


Using Thai wife as land purchase nominee is illegal, states Minister

CMM reporters
During his nationwide inspection tour of 30 provinces, Anuwat Meteewiboonwut, the director-general of the Thai government’s Land Department, reiterated that any foreigner who uses a Thai nominee—even if the person is his legal wife—to purchase land in the kingdom will have the title deeds of the land revoked if caught.
Pressed to explain further, he stated that if a Thai wife can fund the purchase of land and a house herself, no law is broken. However, if her husband gives her money from his funds to make the purchase, and is discovered to have done so, this will be regarded as an illegal act and the title deeds will be revoked.
Anuwat’s tour is aimed at improving public services in 3 areas, dress, conduct to the public and the clearing of a backlog of work.


Dam causes Doi Tao lake to dry up-tourism businesses failing

CMM reporters
For many years, Doi Tao Lake in Chiang Mai province has been a source of year-round and much-needed tourism revenue for local businesses through its floating restaurants, overnight accommodations and cruises. However, for the last 3 years, the vast reservoir has become a desert of thousands of rai of cracked mud due to the release of huge quantities of water from Bhumibol Dam for the irrigation of drought-hit farmlands further south.
Khomkrit Trithanyapong, Doi Tao’s district chief, states that tourist numbers have dropped by 80% and that water in the reservoir is now 7 metres lower than last year’s inadequate levels. He adds that, with the floating restaurants and other services unable to operate, many locals have turned to farming for a living, using the exposed land to raise cows and grow crops, which will be harvested before the water level rises again in November.
The owner of a raft used to transport tourists from the dam itself in Tak province to the reservoir in Chiang Mai province states that the low level of water in the reservoir means that visitors wishing to take the trip can now only be carried as far as Lampang, half the normal distance. Most are cancelling their bookings, as they wished to take the full cruise, and those who do not cancel are being offered discounts. As a result, she adds, her business is failing.
Another business owner says that local tourist businesses will have to adjust to the conditions, and spend up to half the year in alternative ways of making a living.


New CMU computer networking training and research centre opens

CMM reporters
Chiang Mai University’s new computer networking centre was recently officially opened by Professor Dr Tanomporn Laohajarutsang, the director of CMU’s Information Technology Service Centre. The aim of the new centre is to ease a shortage of fully trained networking engineers who are able to handle future advances as well as present technologies. The new centre has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Computer Engineering which will allow CMU’s Faculty of Engineering to provide a technical workshop for country-wide final year students.
Thailand is suffering from a shortage of qualified network professionals, with only 70 certified Cisco Inter-Network experts, far below the numbers working in China, Japan, India, Korea and Singapore. Students of networking technology resident in the north of Thailand have, until now, been forced to relocate to Bangkok to receive training, and rarely return to their home area to seek employment, causing a shortage of trained personnel in the field which has affected many sectors of local business. The new centre, it is hoped, will bring more qualified personnel into Chiang Mai, subsequently benefiting local businesses in the north.
With its10 million baht’s worth of technology ranging from networking equipment from Cisco Systems, to servers from Hewlett Packard and Chichang and a cabling system from Tyco Electronics, the facility will be able to extend its reach to include research and development in networking in the fields of routing network/bandwidth management, quality of service and VDO streaming technology.