NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Refugees stream into Thailand as border conflict escalates

Court of Appeal orders Boonlert Buranupakorn to quit

Wualai’s ‘Silver Temple’ celebrates 500 years of serving the community

July celebrations and public viewing for baby panda

Thai private sector preparing to deal with Asean Economic Community

Contaminated cabbages cause death of Pang Pa Camp elephant

Special Forces soldiers reintroduce wild orchids into Chiang Mai forests

‘World No Tobacco Day’ causes academic comment from campaign chief

ASEAN free trade agreement threatens rice growers

SGA Airlines increase Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai flights, decrease fares

 

Refugees stream into Thailand as border conflict escalates

CMM reporters
An escalation of the border conflict between joint troops of the Burmese army and the breakaway Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, (DKBA), and the Karen National Liberation Army, (KNLA), has resulted in more than 4,000 Karen villagers fleeing across the Thai-Burmese border from the Burmese refugee camps in which they were living.

Karen villagers abandon their camps and villages in eastern Myanmar to seek refuge in Thailand following government attacks on ethnic insurgents. (AP Photo/Free Burma Rangers, HO)

Already displaced, and living in squalor in Pa-an district, the refugees fled when mortar bombs rained down on an area near the camp. With no time to collect their meagre belongings, they are now camped in the rain on the banks of the Moie River, in desperate need of food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Others are sheltering in Tha Song Yag district in Tak province and near Mae Sot, north-west of Bangkok.
The exodus from Karen state is reckoned to be the largest since 1997. In total, an estimated 500,000 ethnic Karen have been forced from their homes, with approximately 100,000 now living in Thailand.
The Thailand-based Free Burma Rangers has reported that fierce fighting is continuing along the border areas, resulting in the Thai government sending heavily-armed troops to reinforce those already stationed along the border. Some observers of the conflict have suggested that the reason behind the Burmese Army’s escalation of hostilities may lie in the Junta’s wish to draw attention away from the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. Other have noted that it may be intended as a retaliation against Thailand’s reaction to and statements about the trial, with the intention of creating chaos amongst Thai policy-makers.
Refugee groups, pro-democracy groups, NGOs and other concerned parties are urging the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Burma’s military regime, and to establish a commission of enquiry into crimes against humanity. On June 11, the European Union’s council voiced its serious concern about the refugee situation, calling on the Burmese Army to declare a cease-fire and to conform to international and human rights law. The statement is the first that that the EU has specifically issued which concerns the present crisis in Burma.

 

Court of Appeal orders Boonlert Buranupakorn to quit

Siriporn Raweekoon
An appeal by the president of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organisation, (CMPAO), Boonlert Buranupakorn, against the Electoral Commission of Thailand’s (ECT) earlier majority decision to disqualify his candidacy on the grounds of vote-buying, has been dismissed by Region 5’s Appeals Court.

The ex-president of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Authority, Boonlert Buranupakorn, speaks to reporters after hearing the court’s decision.

The Electoral Commission’s original decision was made soon after Boonlert’s election victory and resulting in his being handed a ‘red card’. The court’s rejection of his appeal was based on more than 4,000 written statements, all of which were presented at the hearing on June 2 by the ECT.
Three more elected candidates, Supol na Wichai, Inthorn Insom, and Mangkorn Kanta, representing Hod, San Sai and Hang Dong districts, and also accused of violating the Election Act by illegally buying votes, had their appeals dismissed.
All four will be subject to fines, and have been ordered to stand down from their positions.
The Appeals Court has ordered that new elections for the positions should take place as soon as possible; however, as the four are able to submit further appeals to a higher court, the projected date of new elections cannot be decided. The Appeals Court has sent letters to the four, informing them of their decision.
Later, Boonlert told the media that he would abide by the court’s decision, and that he had appointed his nephew Tadsani Buranupakorn, the vice-president of the CMPAO, to act in his place until the matter was resolved. He added that he was innocent of all charges.
Boonlert Buranupakorn is the ex-mayor of Chiang Mai. His abrupt resignation before his term in office had ended paved the way for the landslide victory of Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai in the 2007 mayoral election.


Wualai’s ‘Silver Temple’ celebrates 500 years of serving the community

(From left) The deputy Chiang Mai governor, the director of the office of PRD region 3, Somjai Sasomsap, the director of the Chiang Mai Dramatic Arts College, Dith Photiyaroom, and, far left, Phra Kru Pitak Sithikhun, the abbot of Wat Srisuphan Aram at the press conference to announce the celebrations are.

Siriporn Raweekoon
Wat Srisuphan Aram, on Wualai Road in the silversmiths’ quarter, is one of the most important temples in the Lanna kingdom for its housing of the revered Jed Tue Buddha image. The temple is celebrating its 500th anniversary until June 18, and linking the event with the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Chakri Dynasty, in honour of its rulers, past and present. The celebrations will also mark the temple’s commitment to the preservation and revival of the arts and culture of the Lanna Kingdom.

The chapel at Wat Srisuphan Aram in Chiang Mai’s Wualai district, which is being covered inside and out with locally-crafted beaten silver panels. The task, begun in 2003, is expected to be completed by 2011, and will cost in excess of 10 million baht.

Little remains of the original temple, as it was destroyed and looted during the Burmese occupation of Lanna, although a ‘sema’ stone close to the Vihara bears an inscription in Faak Kahm, an ancient language pre-dating the Lanna and Kham Maung languages. As befits a temple in the ‘silver village’, restorations are ongoing to the chapel, which will result in the entire surface of the exterior and interior being covered in silver panels, many worked with the exquisite hammered designs traditional to the area. In the main prayer hall, the interior is already panelled with silver, embossed with scenes of the Buddha’s life. Funds raised from donations during the celebrations will go towards the restoration work, begun in 2003, which is due to be completed in 2011 at a cost of more than 10 million baht.
The celebration’s opening ceremony took place on June 12, followed by a religious ceremony and merit-making, according to Lanna tradition, and will continue for 7 days and nights. On June 16, at the Kad Theatre, a traditional performance will take place, beginning at 6 p.m., which will display the history of this beautiful temple and its community.
In line with its emphasis on traditional arts and culture, Wat Srisuphan Aram is home to a silver-working school, to help ensure that the tradition of the village is passed on. In addition, it is one of many temples around Chiang Mai that offers a ‘monk chat’ program, where lay people can come to talk with a monk, whether it’s about Buddhism or life as a monk. Monk chat is offered every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. On the same days an introduction to meditation is given, from 7-9 p.m.


July celebrations and public viewing for baby panda

Supoj Thaimyoj
The good news, both for panda-lovers and, hopefully, Chiang Mai’s tourism industry, is that, after first stating that Lin Hui’s baby would not be on public display for some months, Chiang Mai Zoo officials have relented. An announcement was made last Friday that the zoo will put the cub on public display, albeit in a glass box to guard against infection, from July 4-6, with two rounds of viewing each day. Expect very long queues!

The two week old giant panda cub is cared by a veterinarian during a health check at the Chiang Mai zoo. A birthday party for it has now been announced (AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu).

Meanwhile, Chumporn Saengmanee, deputy governor of Chiang Mai, attended a meeting June 6 between representatives of the Zoological Park Organisation of Thailand, Chiang Mai Zoo, local administrative organisations, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and local businesses, aimed at agreeing a format for a celebration of the birth of giant panda Lin Hui’s cub.
The celebrations will start on July 4, and continue over the long weekend, with the main focus being on July 5, and a theme of ‘Soo kao soo kwan Panda noi’. Blessings, good health and good luck to the new arrival. The long weekend will also celebrate Lanna culture and style, with a number of events and activities being held, day and night, at Chiang Mai Zoo. The events, it is hoped, will attract visitors to the city, and will coincide with the Chiang Mai Grand Sale promotion at present running in over 300 of Chiang Mai’s tourist-linked businesses.
Another grand celebration of the panda cub’s birth is being planned to coincide with next year’s Chinese New Year celebrations, by which time, of course, the little panda will have a name!


Thai private sector preparing to deal with Asean Economic Community

CMM reporters
The deputy minister of commerce, Alongkorn Polbute, recently announced that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) ‘One community, one market’ will be established by 2015, stressing that all ASEAN countries will be able to import and export goods, products, commodities and labour forces without strict conditions or taxation measures. He added that Thailand itself is regarded as the gateway for the all-important trade and investment with China.

Alongkorn Polbute, deputy minister of commerce, explains new rules and regulations connected with the ASEAN single market due to be introduced in 2015.

Alongkorn considers that the establishment of the ASEAN single market will provide new opportunities for trade and investment, and improve the region’s competitiveness within world markets. He states that the AEC is essential to Thailand, as it will boost knowledge and stimulate understanding, improving access to data, facts and information. Investors in industrial estates will be helped by a new project, ‘AEC Investor Mentors’ to cope with new rules and regulations due to be introduced, and with the impact of the giant merger on their businesses.


Contaminated cabbages cause death of Pang Pa Camp elephant

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following media reports last week that an elephant from Mae Taeng’s Pang Pa Ka Elephant Camp had died from eating vegetables contaminated with pesticides and that two more elephants were missing, veterinarians from the Lampang Elephant Conservation Centre have been sent to inspect the area to determine the source of the contamination.

Plai Somjai, the elephant poisoned by pesticides, lies dead in the mountainous jungle near the Pang Pa Ka Elephant Camp. His two companions are still missing.

Camp owner Orathai Kanaree, together with police and the veterinarians, found that hill tribe villagers had cleared areas in the jungle and planted cabbages near routes used by the camp for elephant rides, in spite of an agreement that cultivation close to the camp should not take place. Pesticides had been indiscriminately used, and had already resulted in the death of 2 elephants.
It seems that the three elephants had been released to forage for food after the ride had finished, and had eaten the cabbages. One was seen to lose control of its limbs, and had collapsed and died. The two others, obviously sick, disappeared into the jungle in heavy rain, and have not yet been found in spite of a search.


Special Forces soldiers reintroduce wild orchids into Chiang Mai forests

(From left) Kittimas Chand-ngarm, Her Majesty the Queen’s advisor
for the project, presents a plant strain to a representative
of a working agency for further proceeding.

CMM reporters
Following in the footsteps of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Phra Ratchadamri project, a massive environmental conservation campaign is being launched in an effort to educate the general public about the urgent need to revive and re-establish the ecology and diversity of species in all of Thailand’s forests. Here in Chiang Mai, government officials, students, members of the general public, charitable organisations such as Rotary International, hotels, local administration offices and Maejo University, are all involved in promoting and taking part in the project.
With this aim, the 5th Special Forces Regiment, based in Chiang Mai, held a one-day tree-planting event on June 9 in honour of His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday, led by Kittimas Chand-ngarm, Her Majesty’s advisor for the project. As well as building 9 weirs to help with water conservation, soldiers established 999 wild orchids amongst the tress.


‘World No Tobacco Day’ causes academic comment from campaign chief

(From left) Dr. Udomsak Heysuengcharoen, Dr. Yuth Mundee, Mongkolchai Jira-udommongkol and Piyawan Keeratitheerakul of the Faculty of Associated Medical Science (AMS), at the recent Press conference panel on “Chiang Mai youth do not want tobacco smoke 2009.”

CMM reporters
The head of the Chiang Mai Youth Campaign against Tobacco Toxicity 2009 project, Asst. Prof. Dr. Yuth Mundee of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, issued a statement on May 31, World No Tobacco Day. In it, Dr. Yuth expressed his concerns about the marketing strategies used by tobacco companies to persuade young people to smoke by employing methods such as varieties of flavour, suggestions that the use of filters reduce the damage caused to health by smoking, and the design of packs.
The Youth Campaign against Tobacco Toxicity has been held annually in an effort to persuade smokers of the toxic nature of tobacco and the chemicals contained in tobacco products. This year, the project includes spreading information about the dangers of smoking by means of exhibitions which are touring schools and other organisations.
Dr. Yuth stressed that, for the campaign to succeed and lives to be saved, cooperation from all groups is needed. Knowledge needs to be spread at all levels, and peoples’ rights of protection against second-hand smoke need to become a priority.


ASEAN free trade agreement threatens rice growers

Siriporn Raweekoon
Concerns that a free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN countries, due to come into force on January 1, 2010, will result in Thailand being flooded with cheap rice, led to a ministerial directive to the government’s Foreign Trade Department (DFT) to hold a number of public hearings in rice-growing areas. The agreement, initiated in 1992, states that, amongst other agricultural products, imported rice, at present taxed at 50%, will not be subject to import tax, thus lowering the selling price still further and reducing government revenue.

Chutima Boonayaprapas, DFT director-general.

As a result, on June 10 at Maejo University, an open forum was held to discuss the issue, attended by farmers, small farming operators, individual businessmen, traders and representatives from both government agencies and private sectors. During the meeting it was stated that, if Thailand is forced into a protectionist stance, legal action from other ASEAN countries could follow. Atthaya Srisaringkarn, representing Chiang Mai and Lamphun rice farmers, expressed his concern that, due to a lack of clarification at government level, many local farmers, having harvested their crops, are unable to find a market for them, adding that the importing of large quantities of duty-free cheap rice could only result in further difficulties for growers. The government, he said, needs to be more transparent about its plans for 2010, and needs to put in place supporting measures for domestic suppliers.
Meanwhile, Charoen Laothamatas, vice president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, has stated that stringent border and quality controls should be set up to ensure that sub-standard quality imported rice is not re-packaged and exported mixed with Thai rice, thus lowering the reputation of the product. He added that, as Thailand is self-sufficient in rice, the government must also provide specific lists of rice importers, who must specify the objective of the rice imports. He noted that, in the past, imports, mostly from Burma, have resulted in the avoidance of the price-pledging scheme and the sale of low-quality rice. At present, government price guarantees for domestic growers are keeping rice prices higher than in neighbouring countries, and are damaging the crop’s export potential at a time when demand is dropping.


SGA Airlines increase Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai flights, decrease fares

CMM reporters
As a result of increased demand for the service, SGA Airlines are adding more flights to their Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai route, raising the frequency to 2 flights daily. A special promotion has also been launched, with a reduction in the fare, valid until October 24, from 1,890 baht to 1,250 baht. Tickets are available from SGA booths at both airports, from the SGA offices in both cities, or online at www.sga.co.th and www.nokair.com. For more information, please contact SGA’s call centre on 02-664-6099, 8.30-5.30, Monday-Friday, or call Nok Air on 1318.