NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Gorgeous Thai beauty queens come to town

Mong triumphs in Japan

Unlucky for some – Thai gamblers arrested for illegal entry

CMU hosts ‘Road Map to becoming Cyber-Universities’

Police raid Burmese NGOs’ offices, arrest 10 women

Flash floods in Nan kill 1 adult, 3 children

Swiss man found dead at rented house

Chiang Mai hotels and restaurants receive municipal awards

Science and Technology seminar held at CMU

Planning conflict between history and development in Chiang Mai

Exploding tankers and collapsing oil-rigs at Expats’ Club meeting

Japanese government grant to provide new dormitory for hill-tribe school

Leading Thai think-tank - welfare state is only way forward

Stateless girl wins trip to Chengdu in panda-naming contest, travel permission refused

Threat from Chinese dams to Mekong biodiversity increases

Kantary Hill Hotel celebrates 1st anniversary in Chiang Mai

 

Gorgeous Thai beauty queens come to town

Five of the Miss Thailand World 2009 contestants enjoyed a close and cuddly encounter with baby panda Lhin Ping at the Chiang Mai Zoo on the first day of their visit to Northern Thailand.

Supoj Thiamyoj
All 25 of the contestants vying for the crown in the Miss Thailand World 2009 contestants vying for the beauty crown visited Chiang Mai last week.
During their stay at the Kantary Hills Hotel on September 19-20, they spent 3 days visiting local tourist attractions in and around both Chiang Mai and Lampang, shopping, and making public appearances. One aim of their visit was to promote the concept of ‘beauty with brains and knowledge’.

The bevy of  beauties were fascinated by the variety and wonder of the marine life in the salt water section of the aquarium.
The contest itself is organized by BEC Tero Entertainment Co.Ltd, on licence from the UK’s Miss World Pageant. BEC will be celebrating their 25th anniversary shortly in Chiang Mai. According to the organisers, funds raised from the contest will go to schools’ and foundations’ charitable projects.
The final round of the contest will take place in Bangkok October 17, with the winner representing Thailand at the final Miss World 2009 pageant to be held in South Africa in December 12.

 

Mong triumphs in Japan

Jay Alabaster
Associated Press
Tokyo - Mong Thongdee, a 12 year- old stateless boy born to Burmese construction workers in Chiang Mai captured third place in a Japanese paper airplane contest Sunday after his tearful pleas to be allowed to attend prompted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step in and order officials to grant him a rare temporary passport for the event.

Mong Thongdee prepares to release his paper plane during the individual indoor flight duration competition at the All-Japan Origami Airplane Contest in Makuhari, near Tokyo, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Mong won a national paper airplane championship in Thailand in August 2008 after he threw a plane that flew for 12 seconds, and was later chosen to attend the Japanese contest in Chiba, near Tokyo. But Mong, who lives in Chiang Mai, is the son of Myanmar migrants who are stateless and so have no legal right to travel abroad.
His first application to leave Thailand was denied, but after national media coverage of him quietly sobbing after the refusal captured the hearts of many Thais he was granted a temporary passport.
Mong appeared Sunday in a white T-shirt decorated with the Thai flag, whipping his carefully folded airplanes high into the air during the competition in front of hundreds of spectators.
He placed third in the division for elementary school students with a time of 10.53 seconds. In an earlier exhibition, Mong’s airplane stayed in the air for 16.45 seconds.
After the event he said he wanted his family back home to know he got third place, and that he was grateful to the people who supported him.
On Saturday, his three-person Thai team won the group competition. Contestants quickly fold their planes at the event, then throw them into the air.

Mong Thongdee poses with a portrait of Their Majesties the King and Queen together with his diploma after the individual indoor flight duration competition at the All-Japan Origami Airplane Contest in Makuhari, near Tokyo, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Mong’s ethnic Shan parents have only temporary permission to live and work in Thailand, so although he was born in the country he has only temporary resident status. Under normal circumstances, if he left and tried to return, his status would be revoked and he would be barred re-entry to the country where he was born.
When his initial application for temporary exit papers was denied, the story dominated the front pages of Thai newspapers, and a national lawyers’ council petitioned the court on his behalf.
Finally Prime Minister Abhisit intervened and guaranteed the necessary paperwork for the young champion to travel.
His tale has led to fresh attention for those in his situation in Thailand, who have less access to education and health care. Mong is on a list of people who will be considered for repatriation to Myanmar in February 2010.


Unlucky for some – Thai gamblers arrested for illegal entry

CMM reporters
Five Thai gamblers, who had temporarily left the country to spend time and money at a casino just across the border in Laos were arrested when they tried to re-enter Thailand without using an immigration checkpoint.
Bangkok and Chiang Rai residents Sornsit Suppakijjayothin, Kritsana Tongmul, Jurirat Kambao, Nutchanat Saengsuwan and Apiwat Kaewsuwan were arrested close to Panit Lan Chang port in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district by officers from the Chiang Saen Water Police, having crossed the Mekong River using a boat thoughtfully provided by the casino. All 5 were assured by casino employees that the route would be clear of the Thai authorities.
In addition to losing approximately 100,000 baht at the gaming tables, the unfortunate 5 were arrested and charged with illegal entry to Thailand, as they had not used the proper channels.


CMU hosts ‘Road Map to becoming Cyber-Universities’

Supoj Thiamyoj
An academic meeting focusing on the promotion of Thai universities in the field of cyber-technological learning systems was held September 11 at Chiang Mai University’s Information Technology Service Centre, headed up by Asst. Prof. Dr. Pong-In Rakariyatham, vice president of CMU’s Academic Affairs.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Pong-In Rakariyatham, vice president of CMU’s Academic Affairs department, shown during his opening speech
The aim of the meeting was to introduce an efficient and internationally-recognized online learning system leading to the recognition of Thai educational institutes as world-class cyber-universities. About 40 directors and administrators of educational institutions attended to exchange experiences and ideas so that effective educational policies could be created.
In his opening speech, Asst. Prof. Dr. Pong-In noted that learning techniques had been greatly influenced by the IT revolution and e-learning, which had significantly increased educational potentials for students However, he added, although a number of Thai universities had made preparations for e-learning programmes, the systems managements needed to be integrated into an educational system utilising information technology in support of life-long learning. This system should operate on flexibility and continuality, and be supportive of resource sharing, as well as having quality and standards. To develop such an educational system as an essential learning tool, all higher educational institutions should be required to cooperate in the creation of online distance learning programmes.


Police raid Burmese NGOs’ offices, arrest 10 women

CMM reporters
Chiang Mai police recently raided several offices belonging to exiled Burmese opposition groups and arrested 10 Burmese women who were attending a capacity-building workshop. Local offices of similar groups and media organisations have remained closed since the raid.
According to a Burmese source, police were provided with information and photos if the locations raided, which included the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, the Burmese Women’s Union and the National Health and Education Committee, three of a number of exiled Burmese groups which have opened NGOs and legal advice centres in Chiang Mai during recent years.
No explanation has yet been given as to why local police are targeting Burmese opposition groups and human rights workers. According to a diplomatic source, Western embassies in Bangkok are watching the situation closely.


Flash floods in Nan kill 1 adult, 3 children

CMM reporters
One man and three children were found drowned after a 2 hour tropical downpour in Nan province resulted in flash floods inundating a large area.
In the early evening of September 12, one man and a child were swept away whilst tending a buffalo in a field next to a local klong. Police and a team from the provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Centre, having driven over an unstable route through the mountains to , searched with village volunteers for 3 hours before finding the body of Meng Saekong, 34, who had suffered a severe head wound before drowning.
Almost immediately an urgent report was received concerning 2 young children who had been seen swimming in a klong in nearby Song Kwae village before the flash floods hit and who were now missing. Several hours later, the two children, Numplai Wannasudee and Kongpop Wisetkantarakorn, aged 2 and 4, were found, still breathing, and were rushed to hospital. Tragically, both died later from pulmonary oedema.
Nan governor Weerawit Wewattanawanit said he had received a report earlier about a landslide at the road between Nan and Ban Luang, and had arranged for the damage to be made good. The families of the dead and missing would be given financial assistance, and leaders of villages in endangered areas have been requested to monitor against landslides and further flooding.


Swiss man found dead at rented house

CMM reporters
A Swiss man was found dead September 13 in a rented house in Chiang Mai’s San Phi Sua sub-district. According to local police, the condition of the body suggested that Waynie, 51, had been dead for at least a week. The cause of death has yet to be determined by autopsy.
Police and an on-call doctor had been called to the scene by neighbours and the owner of the rental property, Rattana Promjaiya, who had been alerted by a strong smell. Rattan told police that she had not seen the dead man for 4 days, and had assumed that he was travelling. No injuries were found on the body.


Chiang Mai hotels and restaurants receive municipal awards

Permanent secretary of the Chiang Mai Municipality Dr. Ken Santitham presented the awards to representatives of the hotels and restaurants.

Nopniwat Krailerg
A number of Chiang Mai hotels in the municipal area have been granted honours certificates by the municipality’s Environmental Health Office for their excellent services to visitors. The awards were presented recently at a ceremony held at the Chiang Mai Grandview Hotel.
Winners of gold awards in the ‘200 rooms plus’ category were the Empress, the Chiang Mai Orchid, the Imperial Mae Ping, the Chiang Mai Plaza, the Dusit D2, the Centara Duangtawan and the Chiang Mai Grandview. In the ‘60-200 room’ category, gold awards were received by the Royal Princess, the BP Chiang Mai City, the Oasis, the Suriwongse, the Star, the Park, the Ratilanna, the Downtown Inn and the Maninarakorn with, in the smaller ‘60 room’ category, Tamarind Village, the Eurasia and the Bodhiserene also receiving gold awards. One silver award was made, to the Chiangmai Ratanakosin.
Restaurants in the hotels were also examined, resulting in 32 hotels being granted ‘Clean Food Good Taste’ certificates.


Science and Technology seminar held at CMU

Assist. Prof. Dr. Amarin Boontan, left, deputy director of the Institute for Science and Technology, Research and Development , with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Daoroong Kangwanpong, right, CMU’s vice president for Research and Academic Services, are seen cutting the ribbon to mark the opening ceremony of the seminar held at CMU on September 15.

Supoj Thiamyoj
A seminar focused on science and technology was held at Chiang Mai University (CMU) September 15, the 45th anniversary of its founding and the 22nd anniversary of its Institute for Science and Technology Research and Development. During the seminar, entitled ‘2009 Science and Technology for a Strong Community’ and presided over by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Daoroong Kangwanpong, the CMU’s vice president for Research and Academic Services, a number of the centre’s research papers were presented.
The event was aimed at encouraging new innovations in the field in order to stimulate Thailand’s economy and establish Chiang Mai as a centre for science and technology. A further aim was to link government and private sectors with financial resources in order to fund research and studies. A number of funding organisations set up informational displays, with the centre’s projects also being exhibited and consultations on intellectual property rights being made available.


Planning conflict between history and development in Chiang Mai

Supoj Thiamyoj             
A conflict has arisen between the need to protect designated historical areas of Chiang Mai according to established government preservation and improvement guidelines and the road-widening scheme proposed last year by the current government.

Chiang Mai deputy governor Pairote Saengphuwong chaired the city planning meeting at City Hall on September 14.
In 2003, the then government set up protocols for the preservation of Rattanakosin era and older cities in order to protect historical sites from redevelopment or demolition. A number of historic locations were designated, with each receiving draft measures covering various areas regarded as having cultural value. The draft measures for the designated ancient areas of Chiang Mai city included control over land use, construction, building modifications, or any action that could cause damage to the ancient environment and its structures, elements and objects of cultural value.
Unfortunately, many of the culturally significant areas and structures in the city, including the city walls, its moat and gates, numerous temples and original old quarters were excluded from the lines of demarcation.
In an attempt to discuss and remedy the omissions, a meeting was held September 14 between Chiang Mai deputy governor Pairote Saengphuwong and representatives from involved organisations including the Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, the Chiang Mai Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning, the Chiang Mai Provincial Land Office, the Chiang Mai Provincial Culture Office and the Chiang Mai Provincial Buddhism Office.
Points raised included a request to place Kaeo Nawarat, Charoenmuang, Bamrungrat, Tha Pae, Charoen Prathet, Ratchawong, Chang Phuak, Nimmanahaeminda, Suthep and Huai Kaeo areas under protection in order to remove them from the road-widening project. Chareonrat Road has already been removed as it was one of the originally designated protected areas.
However, no formal conclusions were arrived at, and the meeting closed with all representatives being asked to review the points raised for further discussion at the next meeting.


Exploding tankers and collapsing oil-rigs at Expats’ Club meeting

CMM reporters.
A very different and fascinating talk entitled, ‘Failures I Have Known’, given by Dr. Neil Robinson, an eminent expert in materials engineering specialising in the determination of the causes of mysterious structural failures, had Chiang Mai Expat Club members on the edge of their seats at the last meeting. Dr. Neil shared his memories of intriguing detective work he had undertaken, ranging from exploding tankers to collapsing oil-rigs to destructive toilets –a thoroughly entertaining and informative talk which generated a lively question and answer session.
The meeting closed with a reminder to members that tickets at 250 baht each would be required for the next scheduled meeting to be held September 26 at the Shangri-La Hotel in the form of a celebratory Birthday Breakfast Bash to mark the 4th anniversary of the founding of the club. A lavish breakfast will be offered together with musical entertainment.


Japanese government grant to provide new dormitory for hill-tribe school

CMM reporters
The Japanese government, under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project Scheme, (GGP), has provided 2,987,000 baht for the construction of a student dormitory at Suksasongkraw Maechan School in Chiang Rai’s Maechan district. The Chiang Mai Consul-general of Japan, Junko Yokota was the guest of honour at the building’s inauguration ceremony on September 18.
In the mountainous areas of Northern Thailand, many underprivileged hill tribe children do not the opportunity to receive formal education, as their parents cannot afford school fees and live in remote locations far away from the schools. The Suksasongkraw Maechan School is a government welfare boarding school at primary, second and high school levels, established with the aim of giving underprivileged children an opportunity to pursue higher education, obtain better jobs, and live more self-reliant lives.
The school at present holds 908 students, all of them in residence, which exceeds its boarding capacity creating an uncomfortable and overcrowded environment for the children. The new dormitory is intended for boys, and will increase the available sleeping space, ensuring that the children will benefit from a more conducive educational environment.


Leading Thai think-tank - welfare state is only way forward

CMM reporters
A leading Thai academic think-tank has suggested that the only way to heal the political rift gaining ground in the Kingdom is for the government to establish a welfare state aimed at reducing the ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
At a recently held Bangkok seminar entitled ‘The Way Out for Thailand’, hosted by King Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI) the Thai Journalists Association and the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), vice-chairman of TDRI Nipon Puapongsakorn and its research director Somkiat Tangkitvanich introduced the welfare state proposal on the grounds that it would stabilise the country.
Nipon explained that, over many years, unfair distribution of wealth had been linked with the distribution of political power and the increase in the income gap between rich and poor. He continued that attempts by successive governments to narrow the gap had only resulted in its worsening due to the implementation of populist policies connected with political power.
The think-tank suggests that a proportion of Thailand’s annual GDP should be used to provide welfare schemes funded by tax reform, cutting government expenses, the tightening of concession-bidding procedures and the overhaul of the hugely expensive medical welfare scheme for government employees. Increasing poverty amongst Thais was one of the major causes of the recent political disruptions and of the 2006 coup, caused by extreme populist policies aimed at levelling income distribution.
The think-tank will present the academics’ conclusions to the government, according to KPI secretary-general Borwornsak Uwanno, who added that ‘I believe Thailand will go through a major change. If we’re not prepared, the situation could go the same way as it did in the May 1992 or the October 1973 uprisings’.


Stateless girl wins trip to Chengdu in panda-naming contest, travel permission refused

CMM reporters.
Following the media uproar about Mong Thongdee, the stateless boy who, until the intervention of PM Abhisit, was forbidden to travel to Japan to represent Thailand in an Origami paper plane contest, another young stateless Lahu student is being refused permission to take up her 3rd prize trip to China which she won in the recent panda-naming contest.
Naroi Jatoeng, 15, was born to hill tribe parents living in a remote part of Chiang Mai province’s Mae Ai district. Her parents are descendents of Lahu tribespeople who were granted Thai citizenship and themselves have Thai nationality, but Naroi’s birth was not registered, leaving her without any way to prove her identity. Her parents were simply not able to afford the trip to Mai Ai’s district office to report her birth, nor the births of her 3 siblings.
An official letter of permission to travel outside Chiang Mai province for seven days allowed Naroi go to Bangkok to collect her prize of 100,000 baht and a trip to Chengdu, but she still will not be permitted to leave Thailand, presumably because she is considered, as was Mong, a threat to security. .
Last week, Chiang Mai deputy governor Pairoj Saengpuwong said Article 23 of the Nationality Act held the answer to Naroi’s problem. Under the act, overseas travel was permitted if those without Thai citizenship had the status of highlanders. Authentic documentation, however, would have to be produced, proving that Naroi’s parents were highlanders, even although they are accepted as such in their locality and are Thai citizens.
At the time, the director of Chiang Mai Zoo Sophon Damnui said he was shocked by the news, but promised that the young girl would receive cash equal to the value of the prize if she was not allowed to take the trip.
Naroi’s school in Pakui village has promised to give her all the support it can, and it may now be possible for her to be granted Thai citizenship provided the correct documentation is filed. Mae Ai district’s senior permanent secretary, Manas Suriyasingh has promised a review of her situation in order to give her legal assistance, and the local headman has promised to sign an affirmation of her status as the child of Thai citizens.
However, the necessary paperwork, DNA testing and checking which will result in Thai citizenship being awarded will take over a year to complete, meaning that Naroi will not be able to fulfil her dream of taking her ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Chengdu. Perhaps the Thai Prime Minister would like to intervene again?


Threat from Chinese dams to Mekong biodiversity increases

CMM reporters
Local villagers living along the banks of the Mekong are suggesting that the ecology of the river is being destroyed by unseasonably variably levels of river water caused by the Chinese dams upstream, which are disrupting the fish population’s
seasonal migrations and drastically reducing its numbers.
Following the disastrous and unexpected surge in river water last August which caused extensive flooding in the Chiang Rai area and which was blamed on the opening of sluice gates in several of the massive dams in Yunnan province, fishermen have become aware of a major decrease in their catches, a sign that fish are unable to adjust to changes in their natural environment.
Although China is considered locally to be the main culprit, the Thai government is also being held responsible as it has taken no action against what environmentalists and the United Nations have described as ‘the greatest threat to the already beleaguered Mekong, one of the world’s major rivers and a key source of water, transport and food for the region’.
China is constructing a series of 8 huge dams across the upper part of the Mekong in Yunnan province. The recently completed Xiowan Dam is the tallest in the world and has a storage capacity equal to the combined capacity of all the reservoirs in South East Asia.


Kantary Hill Hotel celebrates 1st anniversary in Chiang Mai

Supoj Thiamyoj
The popular and very stylish Kantary Hills Hotel has now been in business off Nimmanhaeminda Road for its first successful year.

The Kantary group’s director Wiwat Tangjitkobboon has foreseen a bright future for Chiang Mai’s hotel and tourism business. 
According to the Kantary Group’s director, Wiwat Tangjitkobboon, all 6 hotels in the group are doing well in spite of the world recession, although visitor numbers have shown a slight decrease at 80% of capacity instead of the anticipated 85-90%. Wiwat has no concerns regarding reservations during the upcoming high season.
As the hotel business in general involves fierce competition involving promotions, price-cutting, discounts for packages, free gifts and other inducements, the Chiang Mai hotel has invested heavily in PR, attracting more seminar and business clients and, most importantly, focusing on continual improvements in its service standards in order to attract regular visitors.
Wiwat expects the number of foreign visitors to the city to increase from the start of 2010, as the political issues and economic crises which have led to the downturn should be receding. His confidence is mirrored with the opening of the 7th Kantary Hills Hotel in Prachin Buri and the construction of the 8th in Hua Hin.
As regards the Chiang Mai Kantary Hills, he believes that it is unique in the city due to its location, the design concept of its rooms, its excellent service, its conference and meeting facilities and its fine restaurants.