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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Happy Birthday HRH Princess Soamsawalee

One month old! Lin Hui’s baby is focus of celebrations at the zoo

American paedophile arrested in Chiang Mai

Government aid scheme for public service employees begins

Record fall in exports during May due to weak demand and intensifying competition

Earthquake disaster mitigation training held in Chiang Mai

11 northern villages receive awards for pollution control

Annual international anti-drugs day sparks government policy update

Calling All Angels- a Marathon for Elephant Nature Park

Burma’s economy from past to the ‘desolate present’

 

Happy Birthday HRH Princess Soamsawalee

Chiang Mai Mail joins the people of Thailand to humbly wish Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawalee a very Happy Birthday Monday July 13. (Photo courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household)

 

One month old! Lin Hui’s baby is focus of celebrations at the zoo

Lin Hui, Chiang Mai Zoo’s seven-year-old giant panda mother cuddles
 her five-week-old cub. (AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu)

Siriporn Raweekoon
Lin Hui’s baby was the focus of much celebration by Chiang Mai Zoo executives, officials and employees on June 27, exactly one month after she was born.
To start the day, Chiang Mai Zoo’s assistant president, Nipon Wichairat, bearing a large ‘panda birth certificate’, took part in an anointing and blessing ceremony led by Koo Ba-noi Tespanyo at Wat Sri Don Moon. Later, the zoo’s president, Sopon Dumnui, led a large group including members of his staff, specialists from China, and representatives from Chiang Mai and Mae Ho Universities who had been involved in the birth, in a run around the zoo. Most of the 100- plus participants had taken a vow, before Lin Hui’s pregnancy by artificial insemination had been attempted, that if a successful live birth resulted from their efforts, they would make the run.
In the afternoon, a huge 100 lb-500 slice birthday cake, decorated with photos of the panda cub from birth to 1 month old and views of Chengdu city, Chiang Mai and the new snow dome was brought out by Peung Noi Bakery. After the candles were blown out, everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the little cub, and 30 lucky people with the same date of birth were allowed to see the new arrival for the first time.
In his speech, Sopon said the panda’s birth was an accomplishment made possible only through cooperation and research amongst scholars from a number of different educational institutions. CMU, for example, helped with Lin Hui’s health and hormone check-ups; Kasetsart University took care of the sperm, and Mae Jo University helped with pregnancy tests and the insemination itself. He reported that the newborn panda’s overall health is good; she now weighs 1,500 grams, and is 33 cm. long. Her hair is starting to grow longer, and her eyes should begin to open in around 2 weeks’ time.
The new Chinese Consul-General in Chiang Mai, Dr. Shu Weiming, told the crowd that he was very happy to have seen the baby panda with his own eyes, adding that, although China has many pandas, this was the first time he had been close to one. He believed that the baby panda will bring good luck to Chiang Mai, as well as bringing China and Thailand closer together.
The Zoological Park Organization of Thailand, in association with the Thai Post Office, recently announced the four names selected for the final naming contest – Kwan Thai, Lin Ping, Thai Chine and Ying Ying. All Thai people may vote for their favourite by sending the specifically-designed postcards marked with their choices by the closing date of August 5, with the winner being announced August 12. The winning name will be given to the panda cub, and everyone who voted for that name will be able to take part in a grand draw for a prize of 1 million baht and a car.

Sopon Dumnui, the president of Chiang Mai Zoo, shown here leading the children in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the 1 month-old cub and blowing out the candles.


American paedophile arrested in Chiang Mai

CMM reporters
At 4 p.m on July 1 at Chiang’s Provincial Police Region 5 headquarters, Pol.Lt.Col. Apichart Haptasin announced that US citizen, Robert Ward Cutler, 37, had been arrested on charges of paedophilia involving at least 5 young boys under the age of 15 years, the most recent victim being 13 years old.

Robert Ward Cutler, an American citizen who had been working as a guest lecturer and researcher in Chiang Mai, shown being questioned by police after his arrest for sexual abuse of underage boys.
At the time of his arrest, the accused was working as a guest lecturer and researcher at a university in Chiang Mai. Previously, Cutler, a Fulbright scholar, had taught at Bard College in New York. A search of the his rented house in Muang district resulted in the seizure of a laptop computer, boxes of pornographic CDs and sex toys for use during anal intercourse.
Police were initially alerted to Cutler’s identity, place of work and crimes by the Australian police in Thailand, and subsequently contacted the Foundation of Child Development. Cooperation then took place between Region 5’s Office of Protection against Transnational Crime and other relevant organisations, including Rights of the Child in America and Australia, which resulted in Cutler’s interrogation and subsequent arrest.


Government aid scheme for public service employees begins

CMM reporters
On July 2, Chiang Mai’s Office of Local Administration began distributing the 2000 baht aid cheques promised recently by the Thai government to public service employees. The cheques are intended to help ease the cost of living burden for Thai people who work in local or government organisations.

The deputy Chiang Mai governor, Chumporn Saengmanee, pictured handing the cheques to a representative of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation.
Recipients of the grants will include 148 employees of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation, 316 from the Chiang Mai City Municipality, 54 from Chiang Mai’s Local Administration, 1080 from the Chiang Mai Municipality of Muang and 1718 from the Local Administration Organisation. In addition, 357 retirees from the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organisation also received cheques. In total, 7,346,000 baht will be distributed.
The deputy Chiang Mai governor, Chumporn Saengmanee, thanked the Office of Local Administration for its efficiency in handling the distribution, and requested that the cheques be immediately passed on to the local organisations for distribution. He hoped that the grants will be spent in a manner which will benefit the local economy, but reminded beneficiaries not to be extravagant.


Record fall in exports during May due to weak demand and intensifying competition

CMM reporters
As demand for goods manufactured in Thailand continues to slow, a record fall in exports during May has led analysts to believe that a strong rebound in the near future is unlikely, with weak demand and intensifying competition taking a long-term toll on the economy.
Standard Chartered Bank’s Suara Wilaipich has linked the lack of demand for imports of raw materials to a prolonged downturn for exporters, whose businesses normally account for 60% of Thailand’s economic activity. Recently released figures for May indicate that exports fell by 26% from last year, and imports dropped by 34%. The situation has not been helped by a comparative drop in visitor numbers and a lack of confidence due to political unrest and uncertainty.


Earthquake disaster mitigation training held in Chiang Mai

Pictured are deputy director-general of operations at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Srisombat Pornprasidhi, ( left), and the deputy governor of Chiang Mai, Phairoj Saengphuwong, presiding over the opening ceremony.

Supoj Thaimyoj
On June 29, the deputy director-general of operations at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Srisombat Pornprasidhi, together with the deputy governor of Chiang Mai, Phairoj Saengphuwong, presided over the opening ceremony of a command post exercise held at the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Academy.
The aim of the exercise was to train staff in coping with an earthquake disaster in the Chiang Mai area.
Srisombat Pornprasidhi, in his opening address, noted that, as the terrain of Chiang Mai province is mostly mountainous, if a severe earthquake occurs it will cause major damage over a wide area. Tall buildings and public utilities including electricity, water supply, transportation and roads could be severely damaged by tremors, and dams and reservoirs could be damaged or destroyed. The training exercise is essential in ensuring that government organisations will be able to handle the situation systemically and successfully, and that local residents could rely on assistance in the eventuality of a severe earthquake.
Continuous heavy downpours are also a problem in the Chiang Mai area during the rainy season, as they could cause landslides and settlement of soil. If the amount of rain per day exceeds 100 millilitres over a long period of time, the soil will not be able to absorb the excess water and flooding will occur. As a result, rain measurement meters are to be installed, which will warn householders that the safe level of rainfall has been exceeded over a period of several days. Training exercises will also take place in the local villages considered most likely to be at risk.


11 northern villages receive awards for pollution control

Director-general of the Pollution Control Department, Dr Supat Wangwongpatta, 6th right, pictured with village representatives during the awards presentation ceremony at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel.

Siriporn Raweekoon
In a bid to control the worsening pollution levels in the north of Thailand, the government’s Pollution Control Department, (PCD), recently enlisted the help of local villagers in a number of provinces in a campaign to reduce uncontrolled burning and wildfires in rural areas.
As a result of their efforts, on June 30, 11 northern villages received ‘Decontaminated Community Role Model’ awards at a ceremony held at Chiang Mai’s Imperial Mae Ping Hotel. The PCD’s director-general, Supat Wangwongwattana, presiding over the ceremony, said in his opening address that a major contributing factor to pollution was the unchecked burning of agricultural and other refuse. The resultant smog, he added, caused health problems in the community and was detrimental to tourism. The project, as well as raising awareness of the serious nature of the problem, had trained village volunteers to watch for incidents of burning and prevent the spread of the flames.
The villages which received the awards ranged from Khor Klang in Chiang Mai’s Mae On district, Ban Koh in Chiang Rai, , Ban Huai San in Mae Hong Son, Ban Sam Kha in Lampang, Ban Pan Pong Chai in Lampang, Ban Ta Pa Pao in Lamphun, Ban Wo in Phayao, Ban Pancherng in Phrae, Ban Wang Khong and Ban Sorden Pattana in Nan, to Ban Kwao in Sukhothai. Criteria for the selection included the strength of each community’s leader, the enthusiasm of the villagers for the project, the control of burning in the village and its surrounding areas, and the ongoing maintenance of awareness campaigns.
Following the awards, the project was officially closed by Supat, who recommended that villagers continue their good work for the environment and the health of the community.


Annual international anti-drugs day sparks government policy update

Siriporn Raweekoon
The government’s new ‘5 fences’ anti-drugs strategy, unveiled by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on June, 26, international anti-drugs day, was quoted at Chiang Mai’s own anti-drugs event held on the same day. The 5 ‘fences’ of the campaign against drug smuggling, dealing and use are borders, communities, society, schools and the family. According to Abhisit, border ‘fences’ would prevent illicit drugs from being smuggled into the country; community ‘fences ‘would strengthen villages and communities; and society ‘fences’ would rid society of the risks associated with the drugs trade, and strengthen it by promoting creative activities for youngsters. School ‘fences’ would prevent drug use at schools. Finally, family ‘fences’ would strengthen families and encourage them to take better care of each other.
The Chiang Mai event, entitled, .To Be Number1’, was inaugurated by the deputy Chiang Mai governor Chumporn Saengmanee, and organised at the Lanna Polytechnic College by the Chiang Mai Educational Service’s Area Office 1 in conjunction with the Office of Narcotics Control Region 5 and Chiang Mai anti-drug organisations. Aimed mainly at students and young people, the event stressed the harm drug usage causes to the individual and the community. All local organisations, educational institutions and students were encouraged to participate in anti-drug campaigns and projects based on the new ‘5 fences’ government strategy. Jurin Laksanawisit, the minister of education sent a note to all educational institutions emphasizing his request for administration members, teachers and students to watch for drug problems and keep schools and universities drug-free.
Activities at the event also focused on other harmful activities and included burning cigarettes and pornography and pouring alcoholic drinks into drains. A ‘5-a-side’ football match was enjoyed, as were a ‘three-legged race’, stage performances and contests, including traditional and contemporary Thai song competitions. Anti-drug activities for children in the walking street were a feature, as was a basic computer knowledge competition and a ‘Be Number 1’ contest. The event organisers are optimistic that the spread of knowledge about the danger of drugs will help protect the community.


Calling All Angels- a Marathon for Elephant Nature Park

Ray Martin/
CMM reporters

48 year old Englishman Ray Martin is in Chiang Mai until October, undertaking a gruelling 26 week training programme that will ensure he is ready to take part in his first ever marathon, in New York on November 1. He can be seen very early most mornings on the track, building up the kilometres around Huay Thong Tao or working at the gym with his coach Matt Campbell. Ray is doing the marathon to raise badly needed money for three worthy causes, one of which is the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. His ‘Calling All Angels’ fundraising campaign was officially launched on 4th July.

‘Calling all Angels’ campaigner Ray Martin from the UK, training here in Chiang Mai for the New York Marathon, is planning to raise money to donate to the Elephant Nature Park by running in the race.

This is not the first time that Ray has dedicated himself to raising money by taking on a serious physical challenge. ‘The last time was in 2004, when I went to India to ride a Royal Enfield motorcycle from dawn to dusk for seven days across 2,000 kilometres of roads, hills and scrubland’, he says, adding that it was an amazing experience for him, which raised thousands of pounds for charity.
Not many people know that Ray has secretly harboured a goal for several years. This goal is to successfully complete a marathon before he reaches the age of 50. ‘My goal is to complete the race in four hours and create a $6,500 dollar fund to help my chosen organisations. Obviously, I would be thrilled if it were possible to raise more than this and with your readers’ help, I am certain we can, as I am praying that people’s hearts will be truly touched by what they read on my website and that everyone will be as generous as they possibly can in these difficult economic times’, said the ambitious runner.
Ray is raising money for the Elephant Nature Park to support the efforts of Lek Chailert. ‘She founded this project and is a tiny, courageous Thai woman who is one of the world’s great ‘unknown’ heroines, although I am certain this is about to change’, says Ray. ‘Lek’s aim has always been to provide a sanctuary and rescue centre for distressed elephants. My girlfriend took me there last year and what I discovered was both profound and disturbing in equal measure. Elephants are only of interest to their owners for commercial gain and consequently, they are frequently beaten, drugged, abused and made to suffer considerable stress and pain from being overworked. Young elephants have their spirits broken by humans in order to make them obedient - a cruel and inhumane practice that has been the tradition for hundreds of years. These animals are offered no protection whatsoever by the government and there is very little motivation to change the status quo as many people make their living through the exploitation of these creatures’, he explained. ‘Lek Chailert is changing all of this and putting herself at considerable risk in order to do so. I really want to support her to continue the amazing work she is doing in creating what she refers to as a ‘Heaven for Elephants’. I implore your readers to make a donation to our ‘Calling All Angels’ campaign and help make sure these wonderful animals will be safe from harm for years to come’.
If anyone would like to speak to Ray about any aspect of his campaign, you can email him at [email protected] thedailyexplorer.com or call on 089-000-2633. Donations can be made online at www.thedailyexplorer.com. If anyone would like to go running with Ray, please get in touch!


Burma’s economy from past to the ‘desolate present’

By CMM reporter.
Despite Burma’s one time world pre-eminence in terms of world rice production and its vast natural resources, there is only a glimmer of hope for any economic progress that would help the ordinary people of the country under the present regime.
That was the inevitably pessimistic conclusion drawn at the end of a stimulating lecture by Dr. Sean Turnell, a world authority on the history of Burma’s economy, given last week at Payap University. His wide ranging talk, entitled Banks, Moneylenders and Microfinance, covered the period from the rule of the British, through the post WW 2 years which saw the emergence of a free state (1948 to 1962) with its comparative freedom and economic optimism, and the period, from ’62, when the military coup ushered in what he described as the ‘Road to Ruin’ and the now ‘Desolate Present’
.The presently beleaguered country was, in the period from around 1850 until the end of the 19th century, the ‘rice bowl’ of the British Empire. In that period of considerable investment, wealth was built on a combination of land, labour and capital, provided in the main by Chattiahs, who, despite being moneylenders, charged comparatively modest interest. Investment and migration from India was an important aspect of the progress made. This was in marked contrast to the present regime’s neglect of the infrastructure and their system, introduced around 1972, whereby rice growers were paid up front for the would – be harvest. By 1989 the interest rate charged on such ‘loans’ had risen to over 700 %.
Dr. Turnell described the economic and social upheaval of the past decades under the military regime as ‘an extreme view of Stalinism.’ This was in contrast to the period from 1948 when the progressive government gradually moved into one of ‘modified socialism’, in keeping with the social attitudes of the times. There had been comparative economic stability, helped to some extent by the British, preceded by a couple of decades when Burma had suffered greatly from the effects of the Great Depression, through much of the twenties and early 1930s. Although things had begun to improve, the devastation caused by WW11, (Burma along with Greece was the country which suffered the most physical damage of any occupied country), under the Japanese from 1942 onwards led to another collapse.
The occupying force had introduced it s own currency, which in 1945 had become completely worthless. There had been an over ambitious attempt to rebuild Burma, notably during the 1950s, which had heralded the military coup and the eventual ‘insatiable demands’ of the state. The many years, especially the early ones, of steady development of the countryside were replaced by a complete lack of investment, with only one bank allowed to provide finance and even that capped at 5 % of any one project. People were now in massive debt. Economic development was minimal and the official exchange rate against the dollar was 6, whereas on the ‘open market’ the rate was over 1000. People depended on meager earnings supplemented by two systems of ‘income’. The first came in the form of remittances from friends and family abroad and came largely in the informal method called Hundi, which relies on the transfer of funds from abroad into Burma. The other reliance was upon the NGOs and various charities operating with varying degrees of supervision from the authorities and the consequently varying degrees of efficiency because of interference.
The only ray of hope stemmed from microfinance, which although costly to deliver (a 32 dollar loan needed 11 dollars to administer) was helping some 300,000 people in Burma. Once again the authorities interfered, but these very small amounts were often enough to relieve poverty, via the provision of fertiliser, tools etc. Repayment was also costly but the increased revenue offset this. The loans went to small co-operatives and individuals, most often women who were more careful with the money and repayments, and were leading – as in many other countries- to the empowerment of the poorer members of the population, through a measure of independence.
What remained was a lack of real investment benefiting the general population. China was the main contributor in terms of macro investment, but this was mainly in the development of piping and building to facilitate the supplies of gas into China. That country and India were the beneficiaries of such investment. Other countries were either reluctant to invest because of the regime, which sold off resources including jade and rubies, or were restricted by sanctions against the regime and specific individuals. Dr Turnell, from McQarrie University in Sydney, Australia, concluded, during question time, by saying that he could see both sides of the argument in respect of sanctions. They were to some extent an artificial barrier to prospective investment since few businesses would seek to lend money to the regime. He was aware that President Obama was considering a change in the policy of the United States, in the hope of opening a dialogue. But on a recent visit to Washington he had found that the present situation and the ongoing trial of Aung San Suu Kyi had meant that any progress was – for now- off the table.
Dr Turnell’s lecture was part of Payap University’s ongoing series of talks and discussions about political, social and economic aspects of S. E. Asia.