All’s well that ends well
after PM Abhisit intervenes
A 12 year- old stateless boy born to Burmese construction workers in
Chiang Mai will not now miss out on representing Thailand at an
international origami paper plane contest in Japan next month, after the
intervention of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Mong Thongdee was the winner of last year’s national ‘oriplane’ contest
organised by the National Metal and Materials Technology Centre in Bangkok,
but, as a stateless person, is not legally permitted to travel outside the
country or hold a passport.
The headmaster of Ban Huay Sai school, where Mong is a pupil, had asked the
Interior Ministry to allow the boy to travel to Japan and represent his
country at the bi-annual ‘oriplane’ contest., but was told by officials that
allowing a stateless person to leave the country would ‘affect national
security’ and that if Mong could not obtain a travel permit, the runner-up
in the contest, a Thai boy, would be sent to Japan to represent Thailand.
A spokesperson from the Interior Ministry ruled out giving the young
champion Thai citizenship as ‘he was born to migrant labourers’.
However, even although the Foreign Ministry recently agreed to provide a
temporary passport, the Interior Ministry were still refusing to grant Mong
the necessary official certificate which would permit him to travel
overseas, stating that if he wished to compete, it must be as a Burmese
national representing Burma.
A lecturer in law from Thammasat University, Phunthip Kanchanachittra
Saisoonthorn, has noted that the case reflects the prejudice in Thai society
against stateless people, adding that ‘Every child has the freedom and the
right to education. Refusing to grant him Thai nationality is
understandable, but denying him educational opportunities is unacceptable’.
Mong himself said, ‘I believe I can win the prize there. I would feel so sad
if I can’t get to Japan’ When asked what he would like as a reward if he won
the contest, his answer was, ‘I need Thai nationality, and some toys’.
Late last week, the tearful child flew from his home in Chiang Mai to
Bangkok to plead with the Interior Ministry and the Thai PM to allow him to
travel. To Mong’s joy, Abhisit intervened and guaranteed the necessary
paperwork for the young champion to travel. Dependent on the Japanese
Embassy issuing him an entry visa, Mong will leave for Japan on September 16
to compete in the contest, to be held in Chiba on September19-20.
‘I am delighted to get permission to travel. I’d like to thank the Thai
people for their support. I also would like them to get behind my effort to
win the prize’, said the 12 year-old champion.
Mayoral election process begins with candidate registration
The first session of candidate registration for the mayoral election
was held on September 3 at the municipality’s offices, attracting a large
number of cheering supporters and causing traffic chaos in the area. The
registration sessions ended on September 7, with the election itself to be
held on October 4. An estimated 60% of Chiang Mai residents are expected to
turn out to vote.
7 candidates who registered on the first day are, with their numbers; 1 -
Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai; 2 - Tassanai Buranupakorn; 3 - Petai
Techoral; 4 - Wallop Saetiew; 5 - Wichai Wongchai; 6 - Pornchai
Jitnawasatian and 7 - Wipawan Worawutpong. Their qualifications to run will
be checked within 7 days, with any who do not meet the requirements being
Manop Sakdatorn, head of the provincial Election Commission, (EC), stated
that the commission will provide procedural advice and guidance to the
candidates and that the election itself would be carried out in a fair and
The director of Chiang Mai’s Election Centre Ken
shown confirming the regulations affecting the mayoral election
process before the registration of candidates began.
Massive road-widening plan results
in fierce civic group opposition
A protest sign in Soi 4 off Charoenmuang Road,
‘ Stop the Road Expansion’.
The release last year of a new city plan for Chiang Mai by the
Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Public Works and Town and Country
Planning has resulted in concerned local residents working to derail the
project through the formation of Raksa Ban Raksa Muang, a committed
opposition group with members from all sections of the communities affected.
The city plan, about which local residents have not been consulted, involves
the drastic widening of 35 major roads in the downtown city area, including
Thapae Road. This will result in a large number of temples and historical
sites being destroyed or otherwise affected, the loss of homes and
businesses on a large scale, and affect tourism by destroying the ambience
of the traditional areas.
Raksa Ban Raksa Muang group are also concerned about the growth of policies
projecting the future of the ancient city as a ‘regional hub’ for the
commercial development of the Mekong sub-region with its projected road and
rail links from China to northern India.
At present Chiang Mai has no planning controls which regulate land use and
new construction, leading to fears that loopholes in the law might lead
investors to build high-rises banned under a previous law. The Ministry’s
National Comprehensive City Plan Committee includes representatives from
state agencies and the real-estate sector, but none from academic, NGO or
Another major concern is the increased pollution caused by the funnelling of
more road traffic into the city areas, together with the negative effect on
wind dispersal of pollutant particles by the construction of more high- rise
buildings and the severance of traditional communities by superhighway style
access roads. It is feared that the lack of an integrated public transport
system in Thailand’s second-largest city would result in a large increase of
the number of private vehicles on the projected new roads.
Since the city plan was released at short notice and with inadequate
information last August, the Raksa Ban Raksa Muang group have been working
to raise awareness amongst the affected communities. Initially, and with
support from the Urban Development Institute Foundation, volunteers
distributed leaflets and talked to residents. Public meetings were, and are
still, being held, and have resulted in an unprecedented network of citizens
from all classes, determined to protect the city, their homes, their
businesses and their lives.
The group’s battle against officialdom is continuing, with delaying tactics
and postponements from the Bangkok authorities, who initially issued
statements that, due to the massive budget required, the plans would
probably not be implemented. Attempts to derail the civic group’s progress
continue to be made, even although the provincial administration is reported
to have agreed to remove 27 roads from the plan and reduce the proposed
width of 5 others. A letter sent by the Chiang Mai governor the
director-general of the Public Works and Town and Country Planning
Department in early July states that, ‘after a meeting with representatives
of local governing bodies including municipalities and tambon administrative
organisations around the province, the majority have agreed to continue the
At the present moment, Raksa Ban Raksa Muang are awaiting the arrival of the
verdict from the Comprehensive City Plan Committee following the previous
Thai National Human Rights Commission’s issue of a recommendation that the
plan should be cancelled as requested by the group. The commission also
recommended that any projected high-rise projects in Chiang Mai should be
put on hold until a viable city plan was devised and, surprisingly,
suggested a reorganisation of the National Comprehensive City Plan’s
committee to include community, academic and NGO groups.
An urban planning specialist from Chiang Mai University has noted that the
flawed plan has resulted in a case study for Thailand, in which ordinary
people in an urban area are saying say no to unchecked growth in the Bangkok
style, with its heavy traffic, high rise buildings, layers of roads and
superhighways and destruction of heritage, history and tradition. She states
that ‘One of the charms of an old town is its narrow roads that fit with
constructions that are not too big, more on a human scale. Unfortunately, we
have been trying to impose modernisation on top of the old city. Had there
been better planning, Chiang Mai would have long ago been selected as a
World Heritage Site’.
A local politician has erected a sign which
announces the launch of a campaign opposing the road-widening scheme in its
Chiang Mai to get new district
The Thai cabinet has approved the creation of a new Chiang Mai
district, Wat Chan, bringing the total number to 25. In order to provide a
temporary district office for the new local administration, the local
SUPPORT arts and crafts centre will be renovated with the help of a grant of
500,000 baht from the Chiang Mai provincial authority.
As soon as the district is officially established, a permanent district
office will be built, located in Mai Pattana village in Jam Luang
sub-district’s National Preserved Forest area.
The establishment of the new district was confirmed July 7 by HM King
Bhumibol, who gave its official name as ‘Galyani Vadhana’, in honour of the
late Princess. It will finally be made official by an announcement from the
Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary.
Canadian expat found
hanged, suicide assumed
The body of a 61 year-old Canadian expat living in Lampang with his
wife and her son was found hanging from a beam in his home on the morning of
According to Noi, his wife, Rudi Weber had gone out to a bar at 6 p.m. the
previous evening, and had returned at around 10 .p.m. As was his usual
routine when drinking, he had gone to bed in another room so as not to
disturb her. When she tried to open the door the following morning, it was
locked. On breaking it down with the help of a neighbour, Noi found her
husband had hanged himself, with the TV screen frozen on an image of a car
falling over a cliff.
Police have found no evidence of a struggle, and are assuming that Rudolph
killed himself due to depression caused by his inability to find a job and a
lack of expected Canadian welfare payments with which to support himself,
his wife and her 14 year-old son.
Another probable cause for his depression was that, in 2008, Rudi’s
daughter, who had been living in Lampang with the family, died in a
motorcycle accident, a tragedy which seriously affected her father.
According to a friend of the family, Rudi had been living in Thailand for
many years without a visa, possibly because he was unable to raise the
amount necessary for a ‘marriage’ visa in order to stay legally.
The body was sent for autopsy at Lampang Hospital to establish that no foul
play was involved; however, to date, no autopsy report has been released.
Recent reports state that Rudi’s body has been returned to his wife and
cremation has already taken place.
Rudi was a Canadian Army veteran, and had served as a UN peacemaker in the
Middle East, coming to Thailand some years after his demob.
Further major drugs bust in Tachilek
As the incidence of drug-smuggling across the Burmese border
accelerates, reports state that another huge haul of more that 700
kilogrammes of heroin and approximately 3 million methamphetamine pills
have been seized in the Burmese border town of Tachilek, opposite Mai
Last week, Burmese anti-drugs police acting on information received
raided two houses in the town, arrested 4 men and confiscated the drugs,
two guns and a supply of ammunition.
This latest raid follows another last month, in which equally large
quantities of illegal narcotics were seized in Tachilek. Burma is one of
the world’s largest producers of both heroin and methamphetamine pills,
with the majority of its production being smuggled into Thailand to
supply both domestic users and the illegal marketplace in Europe and the
Police Region 5’s centenary event focuses on drug usage
Pol Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom, 3rd
right, Chief of Provincial Police Region 5 together with
representatives of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB)
attended the opening ceremony of Police Region 5’s centenary
At an event held August 29 and 30 at Airport Plaza to
celebrate the centenary of the founding of Chiang Mai’s Police
Force Region 5, the focus was on the war against drugs in order
to raise public awareness of the harm caused by drug usage and
The 8 Northern provinces are the responsibility of the Region 5
police as regards drug smuggling, dealing and usage, up to and
including the Burmese border areas. In order to involve the
general public, information regarding the government’s ‘5
borders’ strategy as a preventative measure against drugs in the
community, together with the results of drugs busts, seizures
and arrests by police and related organisations were displayed
at the event. Talks on anti-drug policies and performances by
local children were also given, with the aim of involving those
most at risk from drug usage, the city’s young people.
Thailand’s police force was inaugurated during the reign of King
Rama IV, and was modelled on the Western system, an early
example of ‘taking the Best from the West’. Its operations were
expanded during the reign of King Rama V, with provincial
divisions being instituted and the Chiang Mai division being
initially known as the Provincial Payap Police.
Chiang Mai hopes its
workshops will reverse
drop in tourist numbers
Chiang Mai province’s long history is reflected in this modern
age by its art, culture, customs and traditions as well as its famous
tourist attractions popular with both Thai and foreign visitors.
However, in the past several years, tourism and, as a result, the city’s
economy has been badly affected by a series of disasters including
political unrest and violence, the world- wide recession, the H1N1
virus, pollution, scams and unfavourable comments by Foreign Offices and
the world media.
In an effort to stimulate tourism in the province, and particularly in
the city, the Provincial Administration Organisation will host a
workshop programme entitled ‘The Future of Chiang Mai’s Tourism is in
the Hands of the Chiang Mai People’.
The municipality feels that, in recent years, the main reason for the
decline in Chiang Mai’s tourism is a similar decline in the province’s
authentic identity through a rise in consumerism and a decline in
spirituality. Richer natural and cultural resources publicised by other
areas in the north have also taken their toll on the numbers of visitors
to the city and its immediate surroundings. In spite of the advances
made in the last several years in returning the major festivals of
Songkran and Loi Krathong to their religious roots, and the greening and
cleaning of the city for the benefit of its visitors as well as its
residents, Chiang Mai has lost between 30 and 40% of its income from
Although no details of the workshops’ content have yet been given, the
municipality hopes that the programme will assist and inspire those in
the tourism sector to work together to reverse the decline and bring
back prosperity to the region and the industry, in spite of unfavourable
economic and political issues and negative publicity.
David Crisp murder suspect changes plea at hearing
At a hearing held recently in Chiang Mai, Chatchai Tarasaksit,
who at the time of his arrest had confessed to his part in the killing
of Chiang Mai musician David Crisp, surprised lawyers and David’s family
by changing his plea to ‘not guilty’. A second man, Awoei Yaepiang,
confirmed his ‘guilty’ plea, while the third man involved in the murder
is still on the run, reputedly in Burma. All three accused were known
associates of David’s.
According to police, Chatchai has also been arraigned on a different
charge, with his trial for another murder taking place in March next
year. Relatives of David had been told by officials that both men, if
convicted, would face the death penalty; however, the British Embassy in
Bangkok recently noted that a guilty plea could win favour from the
judge, resulting in a custodial sentence for Awoei.
David’s brother, Andrew Crisp, has been informed recently by police that
more witnesses will be interviewed over the next several months, and has
‘The Thai legal system is not very forthcoming when dealing with people
outside of the country. Even our Thailand friends haven’t received much
information, so that which we have received has been very limited. All
we can go is allow the proceedings to continue. As nothing can bring my
brother back, I shall not be coming to Thailand for the trials’.
Fire Control Office seminar
reports on cooperation project
Following cooperation between government and private sectors
regarding research into the causes of pollution in the Ping River valley
and in the city itself, it has been decided that the main contributory
factors are forest fires and the burning of domestic and agricultural
rubbish in village locations.
Control Operations Divisions’ Officer Director Surapol Leelawaropas.
At a recent seminar held at the Lanna Palace Hotel hosted by the Fire
Control Operations Divisions’ Office 16, the organisation’s director
Surapol Leelawaropas introduced the results of a project which brought
together a network of 172 volunteers from 250 villages in Chiang Mai and
Lamphun provinces and trained them in the causes of pollution and their
prevention within the local community. The insights gained through the
project will be used to develop more effective methods of prevention.
After the seminar ended, a full record of the activities of the villages
and volunteers registered by the project was given to all participants
as a reference tool.
The Fire Control Office will expand its network across all 8 Northern
provinces at a future date, encouraging local residents to cooperate in
a similar manner to minimise the effects on the environment of
Breaches of alcohol laws found in all
Nimmanhaeminda restaurants and bars
Recent investigations under the 2008 Alcohol Control Act
into the operations of clubs, bars and other entertainment
venues were the subject of an August 23 press conference held by
the Provincial Public Health Office, and the Office of Alcoholic
According to the two offices’ report, all restaurants and
entertainment venues in the Nimmanhaeminda and Atsadatorn roads
were found to be violating the law forbidding the advertising of
alcoholic beverages without an accompanying reference to good
social values. The penalty for the infringement is either 1
year’s imprisonment, a fine of 500,000 baht, or a 50,000 baht
per day fine until compliance.
Many venues were also found to breaking the law as regards
promotions and special offers, for which the penalty is 6
months’ imprisonment or a 10,000 baht fine. All advertisements
and promotions were suspended by the investigating officers.
After the press conference, local administrative officials from
the Customs department, the police and the public heath office
together with officials of the Don’t Drink Club from 8 Northern
provinces, visited the areas again with the aim of bringing
charges against entertainment venue owners still in breach of
The investigations are scheduled to continue, with a fortnightly
report from members of the Don’t Drink Club being filed with the
Alcoholic Beverages office.
Pictured are bars and restaurants in
the area behind Tesco Lotus, all of whom were discovered to have
been ignoring liquor advertising laws
Chiang Mai tourism gets boost from Washington media
Chiang Mai’s beleaguered tourism industry is set to
receive a boost from some unexpected but more than welcome
publicity in that highly-respected and widely circulated
broadsheet, the Washington Post.
The article, ‘Where to go and what to do in Chiang Mai,
Thailand’, appears in the Post’s Travel section, and will, no
doubt, be read by many in governmental and related sectors who
are in need of a well-earned rest from the political scene!
All economic strata are covered, with advice on airlines
including the low-cost carriers as well as the national
airlines; information on hotels from the Chedi and Le Meridien
to the Eagle Guest House and its eco-friendly tour office, both
beloved by backpackers. Several restaurants and the Anusarn
Market complex are mentioned, stressing traditional Thai dishes.
Tours around the area are covered as well, both group and
individual, from 2-day treks into the mountains to ready-made
local city tours. The Night Bazaar is noted as a spectacle as
well as a souvenir destination, with the comment, ‘Don’t be
surprised to see a Thai T-shirt vendor haggling in passable
Hebrew with an Israeli tourist as whole pigs’ heads wait to be
sold at the food market next door’. Only in Chiang Mai.
South China’s Sipsongpanna
region to cooperate with Thailand
At a business seminar held August 26 at the Imperial Mae
Ping Hotel, a trade and investment-oriented memorandum of
understanding was signed between representatives of Thailand and
the South Chinese region of Sipsongpanna (Xishuangbanna),
witnessed by the governors of both provinces.
Linyin, governor of Sipsongpanna Autonomous Prefecture, was a
guest of honour at the ‘Business and Investment Opportunities in
Xishuangbanna’ seminar at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel on August
According to the Chiang Mai governor, China is Thailand’s
long-term business partner. Thai businesses in Sipsongpanna
include real estate, gold and jewellery, motorcycle parts,
foodstuffs and entertainment venues. Last year, trade between
the two provinces totalled over $36 million, with an expansion
rate of 16.7%. However, during the last 7 months this total fell
by 20%. The governor requested that the two countries should
cooperate in restoring the lost revenue, adding that the visit
to Chiang Mai by Sipsongpanna’s governor would strengthen still
further the relationship between China and Thailand as well as
improving cooperation between Chinese and Thai business
Sipsongpanna, with its capital Jinghong, has a population of 1.7
million, and boasts well-developed logistics including land, air
and river transportation routes between the Mekong sub-region
countries. The province is China’s largest rubber producer.
Opened to trade some 30 years ago, its annual GDP is now
approximately $1,540 million, with thriving businesses including
ecotourism, science and education. The province will cooperate
with Thailand in the agriculture, public utility industry,
tourism, education, and culture sectors, and is prepared to
offer tax reductions and other privileges to investors.
Northern region’s economy
expected to revive by year end
The senior director of the Bank of
Thailand’s Chiang Mai office Chantawan Sucharitkul spoke
recently at a seminar held at the bank’s office and entitled
‘Economic Conditions and Northern Industry Trends’.
According to the senior director of the Bank of
Thailand’s Chiang Mai office Chantawan Sucharitkul, during a
seminar on local economic trends, the northern region has not
been as seriously affected by the world recession as has the
remainder of Thailand, due to the reliance of the majority of
local businesses on the internal market. .
However, the tourism sector in the city has been severely
affected by a combination of political unrest and violence, the
H1B1 virus, the high baht and bad publicity in the world media,
causing a strong decline in visitor numbers during the first 5
months of the year. Numbers increased considerably in July due
mostly to meetings and seminars being held in the city, and
continued the upswing in August. As a result, overall year-end
results for Muang district are expected to be positive.
An increase in investment in the region is not expected at
present, although export orders in the electronics sector are
rising, and the agricultural sector is improving. Unemployment
in the region remains lower than the country’s average.