Travel and Leisure poll -
Chiang Mai is 5th best city worldwide!
The prestigious annual ‘World’s Best.’ awards presented by the
tourism magazine Travel and Leisure may provide a much-needed shot in the
arm for Chiang Mai’s beleaguered tourism industry – the city has, for the
first time, been listed in the ‘Top 10 Cities Worldwide’ category, hitting
the number 5 position. Another victory for a Chiang Mai destination came
with the Four Seasons Resort’s Tented Camp scoring number 7 in the list of
top-rated hotels and resorts worldwide.
Readers of the magazine are polled both online and offline during February
and March of each year since the awards began in 1995, and are asked to
judge according to criteria including sights, culture and arts, restaurants
and food, people, shopping and value. Travel and Leisure’s editor-in-chief,
Nancy Novogrod, states that, ‘for a number of top-ranked cities – Udaipur,
Cape Town, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang – value
ratings were sky-high’.
Bangkok’s rating slipped to number 3, whilst the top-rated destination was
Udaipur in India., with Cape Town rated in second place. The full results of
all categories of wards are announced in the magazine’s August issue, with
the awards ceremony held in New York on July 21 .
More drug busts in Mae Hong Son and the northern borders
Pictured are soldiers from the special Pha Muang
task force after the gun battle with drug traffickers on the Thai/Burmese
northern border, which resulted in the death of two gang members and the
seizure of 142,000 amphetamine pills, weapons and bombs.
Information from a source that a large quantity of amphetamine tablets were
to be smuggled across the Thai border from Burma to Pai district resulted in
a gunfight in which a smuggler was killed.
Soldiers, border police and Mae Hong Son provincial police officers were
sent to a forested area near Huai Chang Tao village, where they intercepted
3 armed smugglers, who opened fie when asked to stop and be searched. An
exchange of gunfire followed, during which one man was killed, with the
remaining 2 men escaping into the forest.
On inspection at the scene, soldiers found a bag containing 32,000
amphetamine tablets and 2 carbines with ammunition next to the dead man’s
body. According to the original source, the amount of drugs being brought
into Thailand was expected to be higher; it is assumed that two more packs
of amphetamines were being carried by the 2 missing smugglers.
Meanwhile, along the northern border, 2 significant drug busts were taking
place. The first saw 6 dealers being arrested and a total of 90,000
amphetamine tablets being seized; the second being the arrest of another 6
drug traffickers from the Central Asian Golden Crescent network and the
seizure of 4.8 kilos of heroin with a street value of up to 90 million baht.
A police source in Mae Sot, Tak district, explained that the amphetamines
had been exchanged for jade and gems and delivered to Thai traffickers for
nationwide distribution, in order to fund weapons for the Shan minority in
Burma. The heroin was seized following the arrest at a local apartment block
of 2 Nigerians and 4 Pakistanis.
This latter arrest resulted from a recent operation by the Malaysian
authorities, who had discovered that Nigerians were smuggling heroin
produced in Afghanistan through Pakistan into Thailand prior to worldwide
During the previous week, Pha Muang Task Force soldiers had clashed with a
gang of traffickers 3 kilometres from the Thai/Burmese border in Chiang Mai
province. An exchange of fire resulted in the death of two of the gang and
the seizure of 142,000 amphetamine tablets, a custom-made shotgun with
bullets and a hand grenade. Later that day, another unit of the task force
on duty at a checkpoint stopped 3 motorcycles, resulting in a haul of 12,000
amphetamine tablets and the arrest of 3 men.
Government to launch contributory pension scheme for informal workers
Deputy Chiang Mai governor Chumpron Saengmanee,
2nd left, with officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Thai Stock
Exchange, pictured jointly presiding over the opening ceremony of the
Investment and Savings event held for Thai citizens at the Lotus Pang Suan
The Thai government has announced the launch by 2010 of a social
security pension ‘safety net’ for 25 million self –employed Thai workers who
are at present only entitled to the monthly 500 baht old-age pension when
they reach retirement age.
The Ministry of Finance will manage the fund, to which voluntary
contributions of between 100 and 1000 baht a month can be made until age 60
by those not covered by existing private or public pension plans.
As a bonus, or subsidy, for each 100 baht per month paid in, the government
will add an amount of 50 baht for contributors between the ages of 20 and
30; for those between 31 and 50, the add-on will be 80 baht per 100 and for
those between 51 and 60 it will be 100 baht. After retirement, a pension
topped at 3,260 baht per month will be paid until death, calculated on a
reducing scale according to the number of contribution years and the amount
paid in. The figures, based on regular monthly payments by contributors to
the scheme, will be paid until the death of the claimant, and do not include
the monthly 500 baht old-age pension already provided to all. In cases of
varying monthly payments or contributing years, the pension amount will be
calculated by ministry officials. If a contributor dies before reaching
retirement age, his heirs will continue to receive the relevant monthly
The scheme is being put forward by the ministry in order to gauge public and
organisational opinion, and will be sent to the Cabinet for approval in
September with a proposed launch date early in the New Year.
Thai Air plans to cut Chiang Mai
Mae Hong Son route meet opposition
Following a suggestion by executives from the national carrier Thai
Air that it may be necessary to cut loss-making secondary domestic routes
such as Chiang Mai- Mae Hong Son, allowing Nok Air to take over, local
tourism businesses are planning to petition the Thai Administrative Court
should the service be withdrawn.
In 2008, approximately 92,000 visitors arrived in Mae Hong Son by air,
fuelling an industry worth 2 billion baht per year to the province,
according to Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce chairman Supot Klinpranit.
Local businesses want more details about Thai Air’s long-term plans for the
area, which is already suffering a huge drop in revenue from tourism with
other smaller airlines cancelling their routes to the area. A request by the
Chamber of Commerce to the Transport Ministry for updated information was
met with an unsatisfactory, ‘we are considering the matter’.
Weapons of mass destruction -
is the Junta going nuclear?
Suspicions about the contents of a North Korean cargo ship
apparently bound for a Burmese port before its unexplained and sudden return
to its home port may have encouraged the publication of a two-year
investigation into the likelihood of nuclear weapons being developed by the
Junta. An unnamed South Korean intelligence expert is reported as saying
satellite images suggested the Kang Nam I was carrying equipment for a
nuclear programme and Scud-type missiles.
Although a source within a Thai Army intelligence unit responsible for
monitoring developments in Burma has stated that there is no cause for
concern, the investigative report, undertaken by Australian strategic
defence studies expert Prof. Desmond Ball and journalist Phil Thornton,
In the report, two sources were quoted, one of whom, ‘Moe Jo’, now a
defector from Burma, was selected by the regime in 2003 to study at Moscow’s
Engineering Physics Institute’s Faculty of Experimental and Theoretical
Physics. Believing he had been sent to study engineering, he was surprised
to find himself working on a nuclear project. Burma’s nuclear programme aims
to send more than 1,000 trainees to Russia. Moe Jo was told that after he
returned from Moscow he would be assigned to a special nuclear battalion at
one of the nuclear sites in Burma.
The report contains details of mining and processing facilities necessary to
the manufacture of nuclear weapons, as well as for the peaceful uses of
nuclear energy. The regime has stated that it is necessary for medical
reasons to be able to produce nuclear isotopes; however, given that less
that 3% of Burma’s GDP is spent on health and education combined, with
medical facilities largely primitive, informed sources consider this to be
Burma has 10 uranium mines, two uranium refineries and two nuclear reactor
sites, one of which, a ‘secret’ military site, was built by North Koreans
inside a mountain in Naung Laing and contains a 10-megawatt light-water
research reactor. In September 2000, a memorandum of agreement for
cooperation on nuclear matters was signed by Burma’s Lieutenant General
Thein Hla and North Korea’s Major General Kim Chan Su, followed by 4
detailed contracts between the rogue state and Burma during 2001 and 2002.
The agreements covered activities at 2 sites, a uranium refining and
enrichment plant and the reactor site at Naung Laing. Installation,
maintenance, training, supply of equipment and construction of a nuclear
reactor were covered. Recently, North Korea has forged closer ties with the
Burmese regime by providing arms and missile technology.
According to a Burmese source, the regime has nuclear dreams, and they are
‘They’re aware they cannot compete with Thailand using conventional weapons.
The regime hopes to combine the nuclear and air defence missiles, in a
nuclear programme known as the ‘UF6 Project’ under General Maung Aye’. The
project involves building a plutonium reprocessing plant at the underground
Naung Laing reactor site; reports state that Russian experts are already
training personnel in plutonium reprocessing.
A ‘nuclear battalion’, based near the reactor site, was established by the
regime in 2000 to work on the weaponisation of the nuclear programme.
According to the report, with the assistance of North Korea the Burmese
military regime’s nuclear weapons capability is feasible. The US government
has expressed its concerns through Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who
noted that North Korea has previously provided Burma with high-technology
materials barred by the United Nations Security Council. David Albright, the
head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington,
which monitors nuclear proliferation pointed out visits to Burma by
executives from the North Korean firm, Namchongang Trading Corp., which is
under sanctions for its role in trading nuclear technology, saying that,
‘There’s suspicion that something is going on, and increasingly that
cooperation with North Korea may have a nuclear undercurrent. We are very
much looking into it ‘. Reports have also emerged of a secret visit by
senior Burmese officials to North Korea late last year.
The head of the Thai Institute of Security and International Studies,
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, has stated that, although the report required more
verification, its proven authenticity would ‘completely change the regional
security status quo and move Burma from being a pariah state to a rogue
state which jeopardises the security and wellbeing of its neighbours’.
CMU holds marketing seminar for Thai software companies
A seminar was held recently at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty
of Engineering by the Software Industry Promotion Agency, (SIPA),
attended by over 200 software companies, students and business owners.
The aim of the event, presided over by Minister of Information and
Communications Technology Ranongrak Suwanchawee, was to stress the
business opportunities resulting from the introduction of Thai-generated
software to the world market.
According to SIPA’s president, Dr. Rungruang Limchoopatipa, the
competitive nature of the world software market requires a high level of
fundamental knowledge and marketing skills from entry-level businesses.
A number of existing Thai software companies were presented as models.
To assist software companies in acquiring the necessary skills in order
to compete, the seminar will be presented nationwide, funded by the
ministry. Educational institutes in all provinces will be encouraged to
host the event, in order to update their curriculum and encourage new
entries to the field amongst their students.
at school’s botanical garden
A wonderful example of grassroots cooperation - a local
business and international organisations coming together to help
a rural school, took place July 27th at the Wieng Saetee Vitaya
Primary School in Saraphi district.
18 fruit trees were donated to the school, and were ‘raffled’
off to teams of two students, who won the right to select and
plant their own tree. The trees were then labelled in English
and Thai with each student’s name and the type of tree. They
should begin producing fruit within the year.
The project was initiated through a contest in the Chiang Mai
Friends Group to see who would plant the most trees in Chiang
Mai province. A luncheon voucher for four people at the Chedi
Sunday Jazz lunch was the winning prize, courtesy of the Chedi
Wieng Saetee Vitaya Primary School is the site of a botanical
garden donated in 2003 by the World Community Service Programme
of Rotary International through a Japanese Rotary Club, a local
Rotary Club in Chiang Mai and the Forestry Department. Also
involved in maintenance and further education about the
Botanical Garden are Creating Changes Thailand and the New Life
The addition of the fruit trees to the botanical garden through
the efforts of Chiang Mai Friends Group is being followed up
with a project teaching the children how to compost and take
care of their trees in an environmentally friendly way.
Suriya Art Gallery announces next ‘Art and Ideas’ talk
The Suriya Art Gallery’s next ‘Art and Idea’ talk will take
place on August 16 at 5 pm at the gallery, and will feature two local
authors recounting their experiences and reading from their work. Plus,
and this is a must, Nance will be serving her very newest, bright blue –
yes, blue, herbal tea!
Judyth Gregory–Smith is a veteran travel journalist with numerous
publications in international periodicals, and two books on Sulawesi
under her belt - Sulawesi: Ujung Pandang to Kendari, and Southeast
Sulawesi – Islands of Surprises. She describes her latest book, ‘A
Trishaw called Kinny: Journeys in Myanmar’ as an intimate, detailed
travelogue packed with first hand information. One theme of the book is
royal cities, which Judyth explores and finds fascination in their
histories, the numerous royal wives, the abundant royal children and the
massacre by each new king of his relatives to thwart any pretenders to
the throne! Another theme is that a woman can travel alone safely and
inexpensively in Myanmar. On her first expedition Judyth had many
unintended adventures and felt an account would make entertaining
The second speaker may be well known to many in the expat community here
in Chiang Mai – Moe Tejani, author of ‘A Chameleon’s Tale - true stories
of a global refugee’. Expelled from Idi Amin’s Uganda in 1972, Moe was
suddenly left homeless, with little sense of his own cultural identity.
Over the next three decades on the road, he worked with non-profit
agencies, learned a slew of new languages, met fellow cultural nomads in
forlorn and faraway places, and became involved in some of the world’s
most significant historical events, searching for a place to call home.
He has found ‘home’ here in Chiang Mai. Two fascinating speakers; an
evening with like-minded friends, delicious tea and lots of Burmese art
Suriya Gallery is located just off Huey Kaew Road at No. 2, Hotel Bua
Luang, Soi Bua Luang (the same soi as Holiday Garden). Look for the
spray-paint Suriya Art Gallery sign before you get to the hotel gate, or
park in the Nice Nails/Mr Chan and Miss Pauline’s Pizza parking lot at
the mouth of the soi, and walk through the gate to No. 2. Tel 053 221