Vol. VIII No. 25 - Tuesday
June 23 - June 29, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Om Koi district devastated by flash floods

Swine flu spreads to Chiang Mai, but symptoms remain mild

Masterminds of Bangkok family’s murder arrested in Chiang Mai

Fatal bus crash in Lamphun kills 6, injures 44

Provincial Authority hosts public seminar on energy conservation

International foundation to report on climate change and air pollution

Embattled tourism industry accuses government of dragging its feet

U.S. community grant improves air quality in Hang Dong

New government education policy to include stateless and migrant children

Northern Thai daily newspaper hosts massive 18th anniversary party

‘Lest we forget’…on the Normandy beaches, the final D-Day remembrances

 

Om Koi district devastated by flash floods

A local villager surveying the devastation caused
by the worst floods in Om Koi in living memory

CMM reporters.
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

CMM reporters
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.

Information 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.

The 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 of cases.


Masterminds of Bangkok family’s murder arrested in Chiang Mai

CMM reporters
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 addresses.
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

CMM reporters
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 more.
It is believed that brake failure and driver error were the cause of the tragedy.
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 reckless driving.
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

Siriporn Raweekoon
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.

The 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 knowledge
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

CMM reporters.
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 level.
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

CMM Reporters
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 situation.
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

CMM Reporters
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

CMM Reporters
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.

The 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

Elena Edwards
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 fascist ambitions.
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.



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