Vol. VIII No. 30 - Tuesday
July 28 - August 3, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Happy Royal Birthday HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn

Massive Taiwanese-led phone scam uncovered, 94 arrests

Tour guides’ ‘pot’ plantation destroyed in police raid

HRH Princess Sirindhorn to preside over Wat Chan Hospital opening in Mae Chaem

Chemical used to manufacture narcotics seized after tip-off

Montfort and Regina Coeli Marching Bands win 2 international gold medals!

Chiang Mai University hosts eclipse-viewing event

More amphetamines seized in Tachilek

Suvarnabhumi duty-free scam scares off tourists

‘Local to Global Strategy of the Northern Region’

Xian hosts Thai agricultural fair to promote Thai fruits

 

Happy Royal Birthday HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn

(Photo courtesy Bureau of the Royal Household)

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was born on July 28, 1952, in the Ambara Villa of the Royal Dusit Palace in Bangkok, the second of four children, and the only son of Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and Queen Sirikit.
He received His primary schooling at Udorn Hall in the Dusit Palace and attended secondary schools in Sussex and Somerset, England. In August 1970, he attended the King’s School, Paramatta, Sydney, and in 1976, He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Military Studies at the University of New South Wales. The Crown Prince also attended the Royal Thai Army Command and General Staff College, graduating in 1978, and later received a Bachelor of Law degree from Sukhothai Thammatirat University in Bangkok in 1987. In 1990, He successfully attended the Royal College of Defense Studies in the United Kingdom.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej conferred his son with the title of ‘Somdech Phra Borama Orasadhiraj Chao Fah Maha Vajiralongkorn Sayam Makutrajakuman’ on December 28, 1972, making him the Crown Prince and Heir to the throne.
Subsequently, He attended numerous military training courses in Australia and the United States, including helicopter and high performance aircraft flight training, special warfare training, demolition training, parachute training, and courses in small arms and other weapons used in modern warfare, together with observation tours in England, Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Assignments include Commanding Officer of the King’s Own Bodyguard Regiment and Command, Commanding General of the Royalty Security Command, and Instructor Pilot of the F-5 E/F. He has engaged in actions for counter-insurgency purposes in the North and Northeast areas of Thailand as well as for protective purposes in areas around Cambodian refugee camps at Khao Lant, Trat Province.
The Crown Prince has continued the Royal Family’s assistance programmes in underdeveloped areas around the country and visited depressed urban areas around Bangkok distributing food and necessities to people in need. Another impressive undertaking was His participation in a fertiliser preparation project in Suphan Buri Province using natural ingredients to enrich the land in support of the country’s great agricultural pursuits. Farming is considered to be a highly significant and noble profession in Thailand and the Royal Family takes an active role in advancing the vital industry of agriculture.
HRH Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Mom Srirasmi Mahidol are the proud parents of HRH Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, born on April 29 at 6:35 p.m. at Sriraj Hospital in Bangkok. It is the couple’s first child.

 

Massive Taiwanese-led phone scam uncovered, 94 arrests

A group of alleged fraudsters arrive at the police station
for interrogation before being transported to Bangkok.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Officers from the Central Investigation Bureau, the Tourist Police and the Highway Police raided 11 rented homes on up-market Chiang Mai housing estates on July 21, arresting a total of 94 transnational gang members who had been running an international money transfer scam estimated to have netted them at least 23 billion baht. 3 million baht’s worth of Thai, Taiwanese and Chinese currencies, together with assets worth more than 40 million baht, were seized.
The successful raid was the culmination of an investigation into a number of Chinese and Taiwanese suspects over several years, and was prompted by information gained as a result of the recent arrest of a gang of Chinese fraudsters in Bangkok who were part of the same operation.
The fraudsters had rented houses for use as call centres, and hired young Chinese women will good telephone manners to cold-call victims in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong using prepared scripts. The scam was two-fold, and involved online money transfers to the gang, either as a fee for claiming non- existent winnings, tax rebates or social service repayments, or in the case of foreign owners of Thai businesses, in payment for business services such as tax, business registry and legal advice which never materialised.
Amongst the assets seized during the raid were computer equipment, telephones, copies of the scripts used by the fraudsters to con their victims, and a safe containing currency. The accused have been transported to Bangkok for a press conference and further questioning; charges against them will be brought at a later date, as police investigations are still ongoing.

Young Chinese women who had been working on the phone scam in various Chiang Mai rented homes, pictured at the police station after their arrest.


Tour guides’ ‘pot’ plantation destroyed in police raid

During the raid on the illegal plantation in Pai district, soldiers are shown cutting down the marijuana bushes prior to burning them.

Kajohn Boonpath
A force comprising members of the Pai district police, volunteers and troops raided a marijuana plantation 34 kilometres from Pai town on July 17, destroying 620 plants and seizing 100 kilogrammes of the drug. The plantation, located near Ban Khun Mae Yah, is in an area well known for the illegal growing of marijuana, and has been previously raided on 5 occasions by police and drug enforcement officers. .

A force comprising members of police, volunteers, and troops are seen destroying / burning the marijuana a plants in Mae Hong Son.
On further investigation, it was found that the plantation was set up by tourist guides, who had smuggled the plants from Nakhon Panom province. Villagers were hired to grow the bushes, camouflaged amongst other plants. The drug has proved popular with visitors to the area, who were offered a special inclusive service by the tour guides. The 100 kilogrammes of marihuana which was seized has since been destroyed.


HRH Princess Sirindhorn to preside over Wat Chan Hospital opening in Mae Chaem

Supoj Thaimyoj
Chiang Mai residents are invited to welcome Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn on her upcoming visit to the province on August 6 to open a newly-built community hospital in Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai in honour of His Majesty the King’s 80th anniversary.
The 10–bed Wat Chan Hospital was constructed with a budget from the Ministry of Public Health and donations from private individuals, and aims to provide family medicine services, disease control services and primary and secondary treatments to the population in 3 isolated sub-districts of Mae Chaem.
Donations can still be made to the development fund; any persons who give more than 10,000 baht will be given the opportunity to meet with the Princess.


Chemical used to manufacture narcotics seized after tip-off

CMM reporters
Large quantities of a precursor chemical used in the production of illegal narcotics hidden in cans of corn seed have been seized by Phayao police.
Following a tip-off that a truck containing narcotics en route from Chai Prakhan district in Chiang Mai province to a port in Chon Buri would pass through Phayao, local police set up a checkpoint in the city’s Muang district. At 3.20 a.m. last Thursday, a truck driven by Wachara Sisawai, 40, was stopped and searched. The chemical was found hidden inside specially designed cans containing corn seed. After the arrest of the driver, a blood test revealed that he had taken drugs.
Police are now tracking the source of the cans, which were to be shipped to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, using the manufacturers’ and shippers’ affixed labels. Samples of the chemical have been sent for further examination at a Bangkok laboratory.


Montfort and Regina Coeli Marching Bands win 2 international gold medals!

‘We did it, twice, and we’re home!’ Celebrations with fellow-musicians, friends, colleagues and families after the combined marching bands’ victorious return to Chiang Mai.

Supoj Thaimyoj
As a further demonstration of the amazing talent amongst youngsters here in Chiang Mai, the combined marching bands of Montfort and Regina Coeli Colleges, whose ‘rehearsal’ concert was a huge success at CMU’s convention centre recently, won 2 gold medals last week at the 16th World Music Contest held in Kerkrade, Netherlands.
The fist gold medal, won on July 18 with a score of 85.68 points, was in the Marching Band Contest World Division; the very next day the combined bands went on to win another gold in the Show Contest World Division Corps category, scoring 86.64 points! If that doesn’t demonstrate that Chiang Mai’s musical young people are among the best in the world, what does?
The overjoyed 80 students and 14 teachers arrived back in their home city on July 23, to a rapturous welcome by their schools, parents and friends, and yet another celebratory and very loud traditional drum performance from the College of Performing Arts, who must, over the last several weeks, be quite used to playing at Chiang Mai International Airport for triumphant winners!
According to the director of Montfort College, Bro. Mesak Wongprachanukul, the students’ amazing double victory was due to their constant and consistent practice over the 4 months prior to the international competition. He added that young people who play musical instruments seem to gain a high degree of concentration, discipline and a sense of emotional appreciation as well as enjoyment from their practice. Plus, (and many congratulation go to the young musicians and their teachers), 2 gold medals!
A special concert by the combined bands is being arranged, to take place at the 700-Year Stadium, hopefully in the very near future, so that all Chiang Mai will have a chance to enjoy their music and congratulate them on their stunning achievement. Definitely a ‘don’t miss’occasion!

Don’t they look great! The combined marching bands of Montfort and Regina Coeli Colleges during their performance at the international World Music Contest in the Netherlands, at which they won 2 gold medals


Chiang Mai University hosts eclipse-viewing event

Siriporn Raweekoon
On July 22, Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Science, in association with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, hosted a solar eclipse-viewing event at the rugby ground in front of the CMU campus.

The ongoing eclipse of the sun, as seen by students and invited Chiang Mai residents at CMU last Wednesday
Students and invited Chiang Mai residents arrived from 7 a.m. to view the eclipse; by 8 a.m. the cloud cover had cleared and the eclipse was visible. Everyone was glad they had waited to get a clear view.
According to information from the Thai Astronomical Society, this year’s solar eclipse was special because the moon got closest to the earth while the sun stayed farthest away, which caused the moon to look larger than the sun from the earth’s perspective. This was the reason why this eclipse was the 21st century’s longest total solar eclipse, lasting 6 minutes and 39 seconds as seen from India, China, Japan and the South Pacific Ocean areas. As for Chiang Mai, the partial solar eclipse was seen form 7:02 a.m; at 8:03 a.m. it reached its peak at 63 % and ended at 9:12 a.m. In Chiang Rai, the eclipse was seen at 69%.
At the event, a live broadcast via internet of the total solar eclipse from China was shown, and telescopes and eyewear made of film, plus information about the phenomenon, were provided for the participants.
For those who missed this year’s solar eclipse, next year they can join in to observe another one on January 15. An annular solar eclipse will be visible in Africa, Indian Ocean and the south of India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China. A partial solar eclipse will be visible in Thailand, with Chiang Mai residents able see the moon cover 73% of the sun at around 2:30 p.m. to 4:58 p.m. For those who are not aware, a solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon which occurs when the earth, the moon and the sun line up, and as the moon is between the earth and the sun, it covers the sun and the earth gets dark behind the moon’s shadow.

CMU students pictured watching the eclipse through protective shields to avoid eye damage from the sun’s glare.


More amphetamines seized in Tachilek

CMM reporters
Just days after the massive drugs haul of heroin and amphetamines in Tachilek, a further 150,000 amphetamine tablets have been seized in the town by Burmese anti-drugs forces. The illegal drugs were found at a local football field; the owners of the stash have not yet been traced.
Recently, seizures of illegal drugs in the Tachilek/Mae Sai area of the border have increased considerably. Tachilek town is a major departure point from Burma, with large numbers of Burmese migrant workers crossing daily to seek work in Thailand. Earlier this year, 89 kilogrammes of heroin were found in a container on the Singaporean-flagged ship Kota Tegap, berthed at the city’s Asia World Port Terminal.
According to a report from the US State Department, the majority of illegal drugs produced in Burma are destined for Thailand, with experts from United Nations and the USA stating that Burma is listed as the second largest producer of heroin in the world after Afghanistan.


Suvarnabhumi duty-free scam scares off tourists

CMM reporters
After a number of confirmed reports of a scam operating within duty-free shops at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, foreign embassies in Thailand’s capital city are beginning to warn their nationals to avoid the outlets.
Reports that up to150 foreign travellers during the last year have been arrested, unjustly accused of shoplifting, threatened with long jail sentences, their passports confiscated, and only allowed to leave Thailand on payment of a large ‘fine’, are scaring off tourists, already reluctant to include the kingdom in their travel plans because of political uncertainty, violence and visa difficulties.
Following a report from a young Danish tourist that, having unknowingly crossed the unmarked boundary line of the shop, she had been arrested for shoplifting by airport police whilst holding a lipstick and showing it to her travelling companion, the Danish Embassy in Bangkok initiated the warnings. Other embassies are now following suit.
The young woman is reported to have told embassy officials that police were ‘aggressive and suggested that the easiest way to settle the matter would be to pay a large fine’. As a result, the Danish Embassy, although not prepared to discuss the matter, is now suggesting that nationals be very careful when entering the duty free areas as there is a risk of being arrested and charged. In the case of this happening, Danes are being advised to refuse to pay any ‘fines’ demanded, and to contact the embassy as soon as possible.
This latest report follows the case, in April this year, of two UK tourists, both IT specialists, who were arrested after security guards had searched their baggage, having accusing them of stealing a designer wallet. No wallet was found during the search, but security personnel insisted that the couple had been identified taking the wallet on CCTV. The couple were told they would have to pay 7,500 or face a court hearing and imprisonment, locked in a filthy cell after they had been questioned, and later transferred to a small hotel outside the hotel’s perimeter.
A translator, supposedly working with the police was assigned; the following morning the couple were taken to the office of the local police commander, where, according to them, all that was discussed was how much they should pay to have the charges dismissed. They were told that, if they did not pay, they would be taken to prison to await a court hearing, and were then allowed back to the hotel.
The following day, they managed to contact the British Embassy, who assigned them a Thai lawyer and told them that they were classic victims of a ‘zig zag’ scam which had been operating in the airport for some while. The couple finally paid the amount demanded, and were allowed to leave Thailand with a document stating that there was insufficient evidence to charge them. Back home in the UK, they are investigating the possibility of legal action to recover the 7,500, (412,500 baht).
Meanwhile, the BBC has taken up the story, and the British Embassy are now warning UK nationals to avoid moving or handling any items in the airport’s duty free shops as there is a risk of their being arrested and imprisoned. A number of letters to Thai newspapers have suggested that passengers are regularly detained and made to pay in this manner. Recently, an Irish scientist, her husband and their 1-year old son managed to flee Thailand after she was accused of stealing an eyeliner worth approximately 17 sterling.


‘Local to Global Strategy of the Northern Region’

(L-r) Wairak Walairat, director of Chiang Mai’s Office of Commercial Affairs, Saranpoj Weeraprasert from Nakhon Sawan’s Commercial Affairs Office, Pimol Pongkongkaew from Phitsanulok’s Commercial Affairs Office, Metee Buapeung from Lamphun’s Commercial Affairs Office and Patchari Pongpitak from Tak’s Commercial Affairs Office, pictured presenting strategies for export promotion for discussion and development

Siriporn Raweekoon
Representatives from the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Export Promotion met July 21 at the Centara Duangtawan Hotel with businessmen and members of Offices of Commercial Affairs and Chambers of Commerce from the 8 northern provinces.
The aim of the meeting was to share strategies and discuss a plan to network trade in the north with its national and international counterparts. Strategies for each region will be based on information and ideas from local government and private organisations as well as educational institutions; the goal will be the restructuring of export projects and their budgets. The ‘Local to Global’ strategy will focus on exports to the former Soviet Union, Africa, East Asia, China and America.
Each region’s products have been judged on quality and value, plus potential for the increase of revenue in the long-term, based on an analysis of market trends. For the northern region, 5 products have been selected; spa products, rice products, home decoration and fashion items, processed foods and jewellery and accessories. Each region is expected to produce an export- oriented business plan based on the selections, which will then be submitted to the Minister of Commerce for examination before being forwarded as policy. Long-term business plans are expected to allow for the 2015 incorporation of ASEAN member countries into a single market, thus increasing the level of cross- country competition in each sector. .
Products selected from other regions include foods, agricultural products, fresh and processed vegetables, processed agricultural products, fresh and processed fruits, silks, cottons, cassava products, frozen sea food, rubber products and pearls.
During the meeting, deputy department chief Boonnaris Suwanpool, said in his speech that the recession has impacted strongly on Thailand by decreasing the country’s income from exports. For that reason, the ministry is developing strategies to reinflate the sector and build up efficiency amongst exporters. The strategies are expected to increase export profits, increase the number of SME exporters and improve Thailand’s regional traders’ ability to compete in the world market.  


Xian hosts Thai agricultural fair to promote Thai fruits

CMM reporters
The Thai Agricultural Products Fair 2009 in China’s Xian city was opened recently by Weerachai Weeramethekul from the Office of the Thai prime minister, , together with Wang Guo Long, vice-president of international trade, with the aim of promoting sales of Thai fruits in Xian. Weerachai also requested the cooperation of the Chinese government in the importing of Thai fruit.
As Thailand imports a large quantity of apples from Xian each year; it was considered that a fair in the city would provide an opportunity to introduce more Chinese buyers to Thai local fruits such as longan and mangosteen, which have already proved popular. The fair was also considered to be a good opportunity to work with Chinese importers to solve any import/export problems. Organised with cooperation between the Thai Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the event is expected to result in more local Thai fruits being exported to China, thus raising the income of farmers, particularly in the north.
According to Phrae Radio’s report from Xian, the first Chinese wholesaler to import Thai fruit, Liu Yian, stated that although more fruit from Thailand is now being sold in markets across China, the time taken in transportation worsens the quality of the product. This, together with high Chinese import duties, reduces commercial viability. She added that, to maximize sales, the fruit should be made available in all stores across the city, not just in the markets, and that cooperation should be established between Thai exporters and Chinese wholesalers. Warehouses should be built and an advertising campaign should be initiated.



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