Om Koi district devastated by flash floods
A local villager surveying the devastation
by the worst floods in Om Koi in living memory
Following torrential rain during June 8 and 10, 80 villages out of a
total of 95 in Chiang Mai province’s Om Koi district were devastated by
flash floods and landslides. Water levels rose to 5 metres in several areas,
with rainfall volume at 135 millimetres.
In what has been described by deputy governor Pairoj Saengphuwong as, ‘the
worst flood and landslide disaster in 100 years’, a total of 5,000 rai of
farmland has been damaged, with 32,000 local residents badly affected and
property destroyed throughout the area. The damage in several more villages
has not yet been estimated as access roads are still impassable due to mud
slides. 8,000 relief packages have been distributed.
The Thai Meteorological office had previously warned of the risk of flash
floods in 18 provinces, including Chiang Mai. The mountainous Om Koi
district, one of the poorest in the province, is a watershed area, making it
vulnerable to severe flooding when water courses overflow during periods of
heavy rain. The area is also home to a National Park and wildlife sanctuary,
and supports various types of forest environments. It has recently become a
popular destination for visitors.
Meanwhile, the Chiang Mai office of the Northern Region Meteorological
Centre has assured city residents that rainfall levels in the area are
returning to normal as the low pressure system which caused the Om Koi
floods has now passed over Northern Thailand. The centre’s director, Thada
Sukhapunaphan, added that a close watch would be kept on water volumes at 6
measuring points in Wiang Haeng, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, San Sai, Phrao, and
Mae Rim districts. In the event of levels breaching safety standards, 20
hour advance warnings will be given. If more than 35 millimetres of rainfall
is recorded at the measuring points, water levels in the Ping and Mae Tang
rivers close to Mae Tang and Fai Mae Faek weirs will be monitored, with 16
hour advance notification given to areas in the city at risk of flooding.
Swine flu spreads to Chiang Mai, but symptoms remain mild
The director-general of the Ministry of Public Health’s Disease
Control Department, Dr. Mom Luang Somchai Chakraphan, recently visited
Chiang Mai University, (CMU), as part of a programme to provide knowledge to
educational institutions about combating the spread of the H1N1 ‘swine flu’
virus. He was welcomed by CMU’s president, Prof. Dr. Pongsak Angkasit.
and prevention packs containing masks and antiseptic hand-washing liquid as
well as literature are being distributed by government officials to schools
and universities countrywide.
Dr. M.L. Somchai stated that he has concerns about the spread of the
disease, particularly amongst very young students whose immune systems are
not yet fully developed, although he conceded that ‘university students are
well able to look after themselves’.
Prof. Dr. Pongsak noted that approximately 1,000 CMU students who have been
participating in the university’s ‘Work and Travel’ programme are now
returning from abroad for the new semester. CMU medical and other staff have
been asked to watch the returnees for symptoms of the H1N1 virus. A protocol
containing 9 points has been set up; a committee will list the names and
details of returnees from countries where the virus has been detected,
students will be allowed 7 days home leave to reduce the risk of infection
of other students and those who are about to travel abroad will be advised
of protective measures.
Ministry of Public Health’s Disease Control Department, Dr. Mom Luang
Somchai Chakraphan, left, and CMU’s President, Prof. Dr. Pongsak Angkasit
discuss the swine flu issue in Chiang Mai.
At least one case of H1N1 has been confirmed at CMU; although there are no
plans to close the university at present, all students’ clubs have been
asked to suspend group activities and meetings for at least a week, and the
traditional celebrations held to welcome freshmen will be postponed.
A government-produced information pack containing advice booklets,
up-to-date information on treatment and prevention and masks is being made
available to all schools and universities, who are being advised to allow
students who fall ill as many days off as is necessary to prevent the spread
of the infection. The majority of those infected, both in Thailand and
worldwide, are either students or young adults, with researchers attempting
to pinpoint why the young seem particularly vulnerable.
In the rest of Thailand, 589 cases of H1N1 have now been confirmed, with
around the same number being watched for symptoms and at least 79 schools
and universities affected. Meanwhile, Public Health minister, Witthaya
Kaewparadai, has announced that revised guidelines for prevention and
treatment have been distributed to medical centres nationwide. The new
guidelines relate to findings that most patients who develop the virus will
experience mild symptoms with recovery in 3-4 days, and will therefore not
need treatment. Medication is expected to only be recommended in a minority
Masterminds of Bangkok family’s murder arrested in Chiang Mai
Two men who had masterminded the murder in Bangkok of an entire
family and their maid were finally arrested last Friday at their Chiang Mai
Thanakorn Somboonchai, 55, and Pongphan Suparassami, 57, were detained by
local police at their Hang Dong and Saraphi homes, accused of arranging the
murder on April 4 of business owner Thanayos Pathumwassana, his wife,
Kanokarn, their son, his wife and their housemaid,
Previously, Bangkok police had arrested two suspects, Wanchai Onpan, 58, and
Parithas Numnoi, 52. During questioning, Wanchai had denied his involvement,
but Parithas had confessed to the crime, although both had refused to
implicate Thanakorn and Pongphan. Later, two further suspects, taxi drivers
Tharayuth Saensook, 47, and Amnart Paradornpitak 27, were arrested, both of
whom confessed, implicating the two masterminds.
According to a police source, Thanakorn and Pongphan had invested, jointly
with Kanokarn, in several businesses. When the businesses began to lose
money, and plans by Kanokarn to run them herself were discovered, the two
investors had sought damages through the courts. The source also stated that
a sum of 14 million baht was owed to Kanokarn by the two masterminds.
Fatal bus crash in
Lamphun kills 6, injures 44
A fatal bus crash on June 16 on mountainous roads in Lamphun
province’s Li-Mae Ping National Park killed 6 passengers and injured dozens
It is believed that brake failure and driver error were the cause of the
According to local police, a tour bus from Chiang Mai carrying 47 members of
the Sanpatong Agricultural Cooperative Co.Ltd, together with another 22
members in smaller vans, left the company’s offices that morning on a field
study trip to Kaengkor National Park in Lamphun’s Li District. After
cresting a hill on the mountainous road at around 1 p.m, the driver of the
tour bus, Thawatchai Srihuang, 41, failed to slow down, losing control of
the vehicle and skidding off the road. The bus plunged down a ravine and
overturned near the roadside.
When police arrived at the crash site, they found 6 people dead in the
wreckage, and a large number of injured both in the bus and on the side of
the road. The seriously wounded were taken to Lamphun Hospital; another 26
were admitted to Li Hospital. Those who had sustained only minor injuries
were allowed to go home. Police have accused the driver of causing death by
44 people in all were injured in the crash; the 6 people killed were Annop
Duangtip, 56, a former member of Chiang Mai Provincial Administration
Organization for Sanpatong district and the chairman of Sanpatong
Agricultural Cooperatives, Nirund Panya, 50, Kwan Yimsawas, 62, Montri
Induangkaew, 59, Duangta Thananchai, 53, and Sa-ngiam Nopthai.
Provincial Authority hosts public seminar on energy conservation
With an eye to the ongoing issue of global warming, the Chiang Mai
Provincial Authority organised a public seminar on the need for energy
conservation. Entitled, ‘Northern Community Energy’, and held June 16 at
Hang Dong’s North Chiang Mai University, its aim was to spread knowledge in
the community and amongst businesses of energy conservation, renewable and
alternative energy sources and energy usage in the community.
Governor of Chiang Mai, Amornphan Nimanant, shown presiding over the opening
of the energy conservation event.
Presided over by the Chiang Mai governor, Amornphan Nimanant, the seminar
was attended by representatives from industry and the business sector and
students as well as by the general public. Various types of energy project
were presented, and booths were set up representing both government and
private sectors, with educational, informational and promotional displays.
Guest speakers included energy experts and specialists, and field trips to
alternative energy sites were organised.
In addition to the seminar, an ‘energy clinic’ will be set up, which will
include consultation sessions for those interested in the topic.
Payap University presented an exhibition giving
and awareness on energy issues, focusing on the production
of bio-diesel with an innovative machine.
International foundation to report on climate change and air pollution
At the end of 2009, the Chiang Mai regional office of the
Heinrich Boll Foundation, (HBF), will celebrate its 10th year in the
city. Allied to the Green Party in Germany, and with 28 offices
worldwide, the foundation promotes democratic participation and active
citizenship, as well as cross-cultural understanding. Since its
establishment in Chiang Mai in 1999, the local office has been working
on the issues of gender democracy and ecological sustainability,
focusing on balancing its efforts between projects which promote good
(global) governance and others which promote empowerment at grassroots
In the lead-up to its 10th anniversary, HBF will present aspects of
three of their current programmes; Democratic Change in Burma, Democracy
in Thailand and Energy and Climate Policy in Thailand. The aim of the
presentations is to promote awareness of the group’s activities and
provide a forum for open discussion and networking between the group’s
partners and other who are interested in these topics.
The first of the presentations will take place on June 24, beginning at
6.30 p.m. at HBF’s premises at 91/9/Moo 14, Ban Mai Lang Mor, Soi 1,
Suthep Road. Speakers and topics will include Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut
Charoenmuang from CMU’s Social Research Institute, who will speak on the
relevance of the city’s transportation system to the air pollution
problems. Bi-lingual translations will be available. An open forum will
follow the talks, and snacks and soft drinks will be provided.
For further information or to confirm attendance, please email on
[email protected] org, or call on 053-810-430, ext. 123.
Embattled tourism industry accuses government of dragging its feet
As visitor arrivals in Thailand drop to a critical level with
the onset of swine flu infections across the country, sharp criticism is
being directed at the government by concerned tourism agencies.
The embattled sector’s Association of Domestic Travel, the Thai-Chinese
Tourism Alliance Association and the Thailand-Japan Tourism Promotion
Association have jointly submitted a complaint to the Committee on
Tourism and Sports, accusing government agencies of doing nothing to
boost the industry.
Although, earlier this year, it was announced that tourism would be made
a national priority; the complaint states that to date, no concrete
measures have been put in place to alleviate the steadily-worsening
Tosaporn Thepbutr, deputy-chairman of the Committee on Tourism and
Sports, confirmed that the number of tourist arrivals has fallen by
33.45% from last year’s figures, with June’s figures falling from
165,000 in 2008 to 27,000 in 2009. He attributed the drop to the spread
of the H1N1 virus, the closure last year of Suvarnabhumi International
Airport and the recent political uncertainty and turmoil in the kingdom,
adding that it was very unlikely that estimated arrival levels for 2009
would be achieved.
U.S. community grant improves air quality in Hang Dong
Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Embassy to the Urban Development
Institute Foundation, (UDIF), in support of their project, ‘Promoting
Local Democracy and Increasing Public Awareness and Involvement in Air
Quality Improvement’, the people in Ban Waan have taken steps to control
air pollution levels.
Ban Waan is located in the Hang Dong district of Chiang Mai, where air
pollution from garbage burning, forest fires, industrial processes, and
traffic fumes has created a hazardous environment seriously affecting
the well-being of the community.
Under the project, the Ban Waan community is supporting the promotion of
civic involvement in improving air quality, and is making a real
difference in their area.
Residents have conducted public relations campaigns and training courses
to heighten awareness of environmental hazards and identify sources of
air pollution in their district. Amongst the key fruits of this project
is the increase in the community’s civic participation in improving
local air quality.
Throughout the year, the U.S. Embassy offers various open grant
opportunities that aim to provide local organisations with funds in
support of projects that help advance key strategic objectives in
Thailand and the region.
Meanwhile, in celebration of Earth Day 2009, the U.S. Consulate General
in Chiang Mai is displaying Earth Day posters from this and previous
years, as a reminder of the beauty and significance of our environment.
New government education policy to include stateless and migrant children
According to Thailand’s deputy minister of education, Chaiwut
Bannawat, the government is planning a new policy which will result in
equal education opportunities for all children in the kingdom, including
those who are either stateless or migrant.
Speaking in Tak province on World Day against Child Labour, Chiawut
confirmed that a large number of children were being let down by the
present policies, adding that, in Tak province alone, 20,000 young
people, many of whom are stateless or migrant, lack educational
opportunities as set out in UNESCO’s international education agreement.
Other border provinces, including Chiang Rai, Ranong and Samut Sakorn,
are home to numerous migrant and stateless children from Burma.
Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation, in its statement on
World Day against Child Labour, noted the continuing need for action on
the worst forms of child labour. The statement focused on the
exploitation of girls in child labour situations, who are at risk of
additional hardships, often in hidden work situations.
According to the Child Development Foundation’s project coordinator,
Tattiya Likitwong, the child labour situation in Thailand is not
improving, with many migrant children from neighbouring countries
working in the fishing industry, selling flowers or begging on the
streets. Small children are being sold in Vietnam and Malaysia under the
claim of adoption, but are being forced to work in Thailand.
Northern Thai daily newspaper hosts massive 18th anniversary party
Lee Roy Webster
The long- running and very popular Northern Thai daily
newspaper, Chiang Mai News, celebrated its 18th anniversary recently
with a massive party for no less than 1,000 guests. Crowds of people
from the media, politics, education, retail and tourism businesses and
the entertainment profession arrived, including the Chiang Mai governor,
Amornphan Nimanant and the president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of
Commerce, Narong Kongprasert, all greeting and congratulating the
paper’s director Sarawut Sae Tiaw, and its editor, Santad Saksoong.
famous Chiang Mai pop singer, Nok Noi, shown entertaining the 1,000
guests at the Lotus Pang Suan Kaew’s Ban Lantong Hall.
As in all good parties, 100 Pipers, Federbrau and Singha, (to name but a
few), flowed like water, generously provided by a number of sponsors, as
were the many dishes of food set out the tempt the partygoers. A live
orchestra played Lanna folk tunes as a welcome to the guests, all of
whom featured on a huge video screen as they arrived. Later in the
evening, a band provided jazz, followed by a traditionally dressed group
of Lanna musicians, whose tunes provoked an emotional reaction...aided,
perhaps, by the free flowing liquid refreshment! The entertainment
continued with beautifully dressed Thai dancers; a return to the 21st
century provided by a break-dance group performing to thoroughly modern
music. A great night was definitely had by all – a fitting celebration
for a very popular newspaper.
Guest of honour, Pakinai na Chiengmai,
pictured with friends at the massive celebrations of the Chiang Mai
News’s 18th anniversary
‘Lest we forget’…on the Normandy
beaches, the final D-Day remembrances
June 6, 1944. A day which saved the free world, at the terrible
cost of countless lives. On that day, the Normandy landings—160,000
Allied troops from England, America, Canada and Australia invaded France
in a magnificent and successful attempt to force the German army of
occupation back across its own borders and reverse the course of the
Second World War. A 50 mile stretch of the Normandy coastline, with 5
beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword, was targeted by
amphibious assault landings and paratrooper drops from troop-laden
aircraft, gliders and ships, beginning at 6.30 a.m. that morning and
reinforced by sabotage organised by the French Resistance movement. The
German command had made the mistake of deciding that an invasion was
unlikely for several more days, as weather conditions were unfavourable;
even so, in spite of massive fire cover support from Allied warships,
many thousands of Allied troops lost their lives.
Headlines in the London Times newspaper on that day stated that, ‘The
Great Assault is Going Well’ and, ‘On Gold Beach, all hell broke loose’;
its ‘News from the Front’ section contained articles such as, ‘Bayeux
captured’ and ‘Fierce fighting in Normandy’. But no amount of
journalistic effort could fully describe the nightmare of the landings
and the subsequent advances into France endured by men who were fighting
for freedom in the hope that their countries, their towns and villages
and their loved ones would remain untainted by the evil of Hitler’s
Every year since the end of the Second World War, survivors of the
landings have gathered on June 6 on those beaches to remember with love
and gratitude their friends and comrades who fell on that day. Time
passes, people age and die, but, even in 2009, the few who are still
alive remember the many in the traditional manner, visiting the vast
Allied cemeteries, the beaches and the scenes of battles further inland
and holding religious services and commemorative ceremonies which are
also attended by the great, the good and the royal from their respective
countries. Many ex-servicemen use the trip to regularly meet up with
French friends made during the war and never forgotten. This year, 65
years after the landings, is, sadly, the last time that the official
remembrance ceremonies will take place…there are simply too few
ex-servicemen left, and, for most, the cost of such a trip is
prohibitive as financial assistance is no longer available. The world
changes, and modern memories are short…
World leaders were present for the final year’s ceremonies, including
President Obama, who, in his speech to the 288 veterans of the landings,
told them, ‘You are why we keep coming back. You remind us that in the
end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You
remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance.
Friends and veterans, what we cannot forget — what we must not forget —
is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and selflessness
of a few was able to change the course of an entire century’.
The UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, praising those who fought on that
day, said that as long as freedom lives, their deeds will never die,
adding, ‘We. too, must be liberators for our day and our generation, in
places such as Burma and Zimbabwe as well as in the alleviation of the
mortal threats of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease, and want’.
President Sarkozy described the horrors of the battle, where so many
were killed before they were able to land, leaving their comrades to
wade through the bodies of the dead and wounded to reach the shore. He
vowed that France would never forget, quoting a letter he had received
from a veteran who could not attend, ‘The day was like a waking
nightmare. The ground was so strewn with bodies that you could walk
across the beach without touching the sand’.
But the voices which truly counted were those of the 288 surviving
veterans, reviving, in a unique atmosphere of comradeship, their
memories of friends and fellow soldiers, airmen and sailors who never
made it home to their loved ones in the free world they had given their
lives to preserve. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we
will remember them.