NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Heads spin as tourist numbers drop by almost one million

PAO to help restore Chiang Mai to its former glory

Train service to Kanchanaburi resumes after derailment

Drug checkpoints during Loy Krathong Festival

Souvenir sales down by 60 percent

Chiang Mai and the north celebrates National Police Day

19th Chiang Mai Motor Show to feature alternative technology

Samsung launches new LED TV with latest technological features

Thailand’s computer market to expand at the end of 2009

Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Chalor Kerdthes in stolen Saudi jewelry case

Foreclosed properties up for sale at bank-homes fair

Floods affecting Thailand nationwide

Train driver sacked following Thailand’s railways disaster

Phitsanulok declares a district disaster zone

Urinary Incontinence and Pelvis Clinic opens at Maharaj Nakorn Hospital

US pushes Thais to extradite suspected arms dealer

 

Heads spin as tourist numbers drop by almost one million

Nopniwat Krailerg
Worapong Moochaotai, advisor to Siripanna Villa Resort Chiang Mai Centara Boutique Collection, and the Secretary General of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association has sounded a warning. A few years ago Chiang Mai had positive factors that attracted many investments and the investors had no problem obtaining funds from the financial institutions. Many new hotels were built during that period, and the number of hotel rooms in Chiang Mai reached 30,000 when the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006 took place.

Worapong Moochaotai.
However, since then, different types of issues including global and internal economic and political upheavals and air pollution have emerged, causing a decrease in tourist numbers to the province. The resultant oversupply has become the major issue that Chiang Mai’s tourism business sector has to overcome.
Although Chiang Mai remains the top travel destination among the Thai tourists, especially because of panda Lhin Ping, it has lost more than 700,000 foreign tourists in the past two years, and when 2009 ends the number could reach 1 million. Since many of the service locations in Chiang Mai were targeted at foreign tourists, this makes the situation worse.
The small number of reservations at the hotels across the city for the upcoming high season indicates that more time is required for Chiang Mai to gain back the foreign tourists it has lost.
The resultant revenue from tourism of this year will be lower than last year’s, as indicated by the decline in the number of tourists with Chiang Mai seeing a decrease of 49 percent in the first quarter of this year alone.
“There are only a small number of tourists coming from the southern China. And although Chiang Mai has welcomed more tourists from Middle East, Eastern Europe, Indonesia and India, it has lost a large number of tourists from England, Germany, France and Japan. Chiang Mai’s tourism is yet to heal,” said Worapong.
The situation is dire and obvious, but the big question, is what is being done about it?

 

PAO to help restore Chiang Mai to its former glory

Nopniwat Krailerg
Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chairman of Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO) having just returned to his position after a 3 month suspension, announced development plans for Chiang Mai in preparation for the upcoming high tourist season.
He said that because the Chiang Mai Municipality budget for 2010 had not yet been approved, he would contribute funds from the PAO budget to pay for restoration and beautification of certain areas in Chiang Mai.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chairman of Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO)

He said, “One of the areas to get top propriety would be the around the moat area as this would be the centre of attraction during the upcoming Loy Krathong Festival.”
Boonlert went on to say, “Roads around the city would also be repaired and we will renovate and beautify the gateway to Chiang Mai International Airport so that arriving visitors would get a good first impression.”
The PAO chief stressed that the provincial authorizes would also help to beautify all corners of the city by building small parks that would have an abundance of colourful flowers and a variety of plants, native to the northern region.
“With the cooperation of the PAO and the Municipality, Chiang Mai would once again be returned to its former glory and beauty befitting our reputation as the ‘Rose of the north’.”


Train service to Kanchanaburi resumes after derailment

State Railways of Thailand train services to the ‘RiverKwai’ city of Kanchanaburi resumes after a salvage operation to move four carriages of a passenger train, which derailed in Ratchaburi last Wednesday afternoon.
The four carriages were moved to a train station in Ban Pong district for repairs.
A section of railway track and loosened sleepers were repaired and the Sai Yok Waterfall to Thonburi was the first train to run early Thursday. The passenger train enroute to Kanchanaburi derailed in Ratchaburi province on Wednesday due to waterlogged railway sleepers damaged by the cumulative impact of rain.
About a hundred passengers, both Thais and foreigners, were uninjured in the incident and were transferred by bus to their destinations.
According to a preliminary investigation, the train derailed as railway sleepers at the site were damaged and had loosened, combined with waterlogged land due to several days of consecutive rain.
The accident is the second train derailment in two weeks as a crowded passenger train Route Number 84 Trang-Bangkok derailed last week at Khao Tao Station in the resort town of Hua Hin in Prachuab Khiri Khan, killing seven passengers, while nearly 90 others were injured. (TNA)


Drug checkpoints during Loy Krathong Festival

Staff reporters
Chiang Mai will celebrate its largest Yipeng festival this year. This was the proud boast of the Office of Tourism and Sports of Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization, Chiang Mai Municipality and the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association.
Yipeng Festival will run between October 31 and November 3, with the theme being the preservation of nature and air and reducing water pollution and the preservation of the art and culture of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Governor Amornpan Nimanant, wants the preservation of nature and cultural heritage and the Lanna traditional lifestyle, including the cultural tradition of “Long Sapao” using natural materials such as trunks and leaves of banana, papaya or bamboo, done in the past during the Yipeng Festival for the purposes of family bonding and merit-making. Residents and tourists are encouraged to hang Lanna style lanterns instead of releasing them into the sky, in support of the campaign to save the earth and reduce air pollution, and will be the highlight of Chiang Mai Yipeng Festival 2009.
In addition to the “Kratongs” parade, the contests and fireworks, the tourists and residents will witness the decorated “King Prajadhipok Cultural Road”. All these activities are funded by the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization.
According to Boonlert Buranupakorn, the president of Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization, the “King Prajadhipok Cultural Road” is organized with the aim of designating Chiang Mai as the center of Lanna heritage, and to establish Chiang Mai as a world travel destination.
Sarawut Saetiaw, the president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Association, said his association has been assigned the responsibility of the “King Prajadhipok Cultural Road” and will decorate the road, from Chang Phuak Gate, Three Kings Monument to Chiang Mai Gate, with 20,000 Lanna style lanterns, with the largest and most beautiful “Kom Pad” or rotating lantern and arches.
The Yipeng Festival is to take place between October 31 and November 3, starting at 6 p.m. each night with free tours along the road provided by the Chiang Mai Night Safari’s shuttle buses.


Souvenir sales down by 60 percent

Nopniwat Krailerg
In line with the decrease in overseas tourists to Chiang Mai due to the recession and political dispute of the local residents, Chadcharn Eakchaipatanakul, the managing director of Wanasanan Souvenirs Shop, said the end result is Chiang Mai’s economy suffers. His business alone is down by 60 percent.

Chadcharn Eakchaipatanakul, the managing director of Wanasanan Souvenirs Shop

Chadcharn Eakchaipatanakul said “Business operators have been discussing the plans to cope, but Chiang Mai has many groups with different opinions; some do not find what the business sector wants for the province to be as significant as what they want.
“I need Chiang Mai to be like it was 20 years ago, a lovely and peaceful place. For others to perceive that Chiang Mai residents are violent and scary is unacceptable to me, as these are not Chiang Mai people.”
He added that it was highly unlikely that the economy was going to be better at the end of the year, so the government sector should be willing to give aid to the private sector, especially the tourism business. If the state of the economy is unchanged all through next year’s January, there’s really nothing to be done but hope for the best when October of 2010 comes. And many seasoned observers believe that if the current political bickering continues, there won’t be any business by October 2010. But is anyone listening?


Chiang Mai and the north celebrates National Police Day

School and university students who received the grants from Princess Mother Srinagarindra, Provincial Police Region 5 and Prince Rapee Pattanasak’s funds.

Supoj Thiamyoj
In Chiang Mai, on the occasion of National Police Day on October 13, Chiang Mai Provincial Police held a Buddhist merit-making ceremony at their Police Station as a memorial to the fellow police officers who have passed away.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Sommai Kongwisaisuk, the commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police, spoke to the police officers who attended the event and presided over the ceremony to grant scholarships from Princess Srinagarindra, Provincial Police Region 5 and Prince Rapee Pattanasak’s funds worth 320,000 baht to the school and university students who were the children of the Chiang Mai provincial police.
In Mae Hong Son, the Police National Day event took place at Mae Hong Son Provincial Police Station. Pol. Maj. Gen. Chawalit Kingnet, the commander of Mae Hong Son Provincial Police, presided over the pledging ceremony in front the image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the granting of scholarships to the children of Mae Hong Son police and presented honorary shields to the Mae Hong Son police supporters.
Mae Hong Son’s Governor Kamtorn Tawornsatith attended the religious ceremony in dedication of the police who have done such hard work for the country. The police officials also made merit by cleaning at Wat Prathat Doi Kong Mu.
In Lampang, about 300 police officers attended the Buddhist merit-making ceremony to gain blessing for themselves and their families and as a dedication to the police who never failed at their duties to keep order in the country. Certificates and scholarships were granted to the police officers who have done remarkable jobs and the children of police who have been excellent students.
A memo from Acting Police Chief Pol. Gen. Pateep Tanprasert was also read to encourage the officials to continue their hard work for the country and its people, with endurance, patience and selflessness.


19th Chiang Mai Motor Show to feature alternative technology

Nopniwat Krailerg
The 19th Chiang Mai Motor Show entitled ‘Save for Tomorrow’, will take place between December 18 and 27 at Big C’s Arena Hall near the Donjan intersection, with the focus on energy-saving.
Chairat Yapanya, president of the Automobile Agents’ Association of Chiang Mai, noted in his speech that his organisation was founded in 1997 and now has 23 members consisting of a range of experienced and successful Chiang Mai auto-related businesses including insurance and car decoration businesses in addition to sales agents, all of whom have contributed to the advancement of the automobile business in Chiang Mai. He added that last year’s event had resulted in orders for 350 cars valued at 300 million baht..
Visitors to the 19th Chiang Mai Motor Show, the largest motor show event to be held in the northern region, will be introduced to exciting automobile innovations and other interesting activities. Special deals from all the world-renowned car brands will be offered, in a similar way to the Motor Expo event in Bangkok. It is hoped that the event will boost tourism, attracting no less that 100,000 people to the province.
During the event, Off Road and Gymkhana car-racing competitions for King Bhumibol’s trophy and the Miss Motor Show contest will take place. Cars using technological innovations such as alternative energy for environment conservation, car accessories, car cleaning equipment and car stereos will be on display. Visitors will be able to test drive the cars, relax in a beer garden and eat at restaurants.


Samsung launches new LED TV with latest technological features

(L/R) Chaowalit Hemachurint, Samsung Thailand’ AV Product Trainer, a PR representative from Samsung Thailand, and Somporn Kulpruetdee, Marketing Director of the Northern Region Consumer Electronic Section of Samsung Thailand, with Trin Tanakittiwara, Client Leader of the Northern Region Consumer Electronic Section of Samsung Thailand, all admiring the new Samsung LED TV.

Niyompanit Electronics Store and Samsung Thailand launched the new Samsung LED TV with its latest programme technology at an event, LED Exclusive Day, held on October 10 at the Niyompanit Electronics Store’s Galerie Fantasia. Samsung’s new a leader in the field of sound and visual technology, has modelled its new TV to include unique crystal designed thinness and latest technological features, including internet accessibility, promoted for the first time in Chiang Mai.
Everyone is welcome to visit Gallery Fantasia Niyompanit or the Samsung booth at the head office of Niyompanit Electronics Store on Mahidol Road to receive further detailed information about the new Samsung LED TV.


Thailand’s computer market to expand at the end of 2009

CMM reporters
According to Kasikorn Research, the computer market should expand during this year’s last quarter due to the restoration of Thailand’s economy and customers’ trusts, as well as contributing business factors including the launch of new computers with the latest technology such as energy saving batteries and new operating systems, persuading customers to replace their computers for more efficiency.
Fierce competition in the computer business is causing a decrease in prices which should enable new groups of customers who did not have buying power before to purchase the products. The emergence of 3G technology associated with laptops should also prompt the growth of the computer market.
Sales of laptops are expected to increase to between 2.56 and 2.82 million this year, with desktop sales decreasing due to fierce marketing campaigns among rival companies and the cutback in investments by the private and public sectors during the first half of the year. As the economy and consumer power are expected to be restored to normal during the last quarter of this year, the computer market should become active again, although prices are expected to be lower than last year in order to boost sales.


Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Chalor Kerdthes in stolen Saudi jewelry case

Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals death sentence verdict for former deputy police commissioner Chalor Kerdthes in murders and embezzlement connected to the still not fully resolved Saudi jewelry theft case.
Pol. Lt-Gen. Chalor, then chief of a police investigative team charged to resolve the Saudi jewellery theft case, was convicted of abducting Darawadee Srithanakhan and her eight-year-old son and killing them to force her husband Santi Srithanakhan, a gem trader who was believed to be involved in the disappearance of Saudi royal family’s jewelry, to cooperate with the investigation and to give him information about the stolen Saudi royal jewellery.
On December 27, 2002, the Criminal Court sentenced Gen. Chalor to life imprisonment for premeditated murder. On March 3, 2006, the Appeals Court sentenced the police officer to death for murder, overturning the earlier sentence by the lower court of life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Court of Appeals’ death sentence against him.
The case dates to the late 1980s when Kriangkrai Techamong, a Thai worker employed in the palace of a Saudi prince, stole jewellery and other valuables from the Saudi royal family’s palace and escaped with the cache of jewels to his Lampang home in 1989.
Mr Kriangkrai was arrested in Thailand in 1990 and jailed for five years, but when the jewellery was returned to Riyadh, an outraged Saudia Arabia said only some of it was genuine - and that the famed ‘’Blue Diamond’’ was still missing.
While Gen Chalor was sentenced for his role in the affair, the overall case is still unresolved, including murders of several Saudi diplomats and the disappearance of a Saudi businessman, which resulted in Thailand’s diplomatic relations with Saudi being downgraded to the charge d’affaires level.
The unresolved cases have hampered political, economic and trade relations between the two countries for 20 years.
Several past Thai governments have attempted to upgrade relations with Saudi Arabia, but their attempts have fallen flat because of the failure to solve the murder cases. (TNA)


Foreclosed properties up for sale at bank-homes fair

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
On October 9, Chiang Mai’s Governor Amornpan Nimanant presided over the opening ceremony of “Bank Foreclosure Homes Festival ’09” at Central Airport Plaza.

Governor Amornpan Nimanant presided over the opening of the bank-home fair.
At the 5th annual event which was held from October 9-11, more than 1000 items of property and homes that banks had foreclosed due to non-payment were put up for sale to the general public.
Participating banks and financial institutions included the Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai bank and the Bangkok Capital and Alliance. It was reported that due to the economic crunch the properties were sold at unusually low prices which proved beneficial to the bargain hunters.
Bank representatives stated that these fairs are necessary to solve the economic problems in the country. People with non performing loans could be free of their debts; the banks can reduce their Non Performing Assets (NPA) and also enables the general public to own their own homes at below market prices.

Governor Amornpan Nimanant, members of organising committee and guests are seen posing for a group photograph before inspecting the properties.


Floods affecting Thailand nationwide

Floods are continuing in varied areas of Thailand, with critical needs in some areas due to more overflowing torrents, while the national weather service warned that the weather system from China now covers the North and Northeast.
A ridge of moderate high pressure from the Asian land mass is covering much of Thailand north and east of the capital.
In the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket, second round of flash flooding has hit Si Sa Ket municipality. Inundation in some areas is over two metres deep due to the overflowing waters of the Mun River causing residents to move their valuables to higher ground.
In Phitsanulok’s provincial seat and Bang Rakam district over 30,000 rais (about 12,000 acres) of flooded paddy fields meant that farmers were unable to harvest their crops in time, meaning that they have lost most of their annual income. The farmlands now smell of rotten rice.
Provincial officials are planning a long-term solution against the flooding and to allocate budget for a flood retention area project known as Kam Ling (Monkey’s Cheeks).
In nearby Kamphaeng Phet province, incessant rain and the accumulated run-off from several other northern provinces quickly raised water levels in the Yom River, triggering flash run-offs overflowing into many houses as well as agricultural areas.
Meanwhile, floodwaters in Sam Ngam district of Phichit is more than two metres high.
Villagers used boats for transport and moved valuables to the roadside.
In Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok, officials in Sai Yok, Thong Pha Phum and Sangkhla Buri districts warned motorists and drivers to drive carefully due to poor visibility from a dense fog covering the areas.
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department warned that the ridge of a moderate high pressure weather system from China now covering the Northeast and the North of Thailand is causing thundershowers temperature drops one 1-3 degrees Celsius. Torrential rain and isolated heavy rainfall is likely with winds in lower central, eastern and southern Thailand.
Tropical Storm Parma in the mid-South China Sea centred about 200 km east of Hainan Island, China, is expected to be downgraded to become a tropical depression and will make a landfall at Hainan later on Monday. (TNA)


Train driver sacked following Thailand’s railways disaster

The State Railways of Thailand (SRT) on Monday October 12, fired a train driver who collapsed while on duty, causing the train he was driving to Bangkok to derail in the resort town of Hua Hin in Prachuab Khiri Khan last week, leaving seven passengers dead and injuring nearly 90 others.
SRT deputy governor Pakorn Tangjetsakow, who is also chairman of the committee probing the derailment of the Route No. 84 passenger train, bound from Trang to Bangkok, said that the investigation showed that the accident was not caused by a technical glitch, but by collective human error—the train driver, an engineer and other staff.
He said driver Roengsak Phanthep told investigators that he had taken medicines for fever and allergy and collapsed without warning as the train approached the accident scene.
Mr Parorn said the train under Roengsak’s control jumped the stop light at Wang Phong Station and ran at high speed to Khao Tao station in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district before derailing there.
The SRT deputy governor said the committee decided to dismiss Mr Roengsak, while the engineer and staff of the derailed train will be punished by cutting their salaries by 15 per cent for 10 months.
The government-owned railway is facing a severe staff shortage and numbers of train drivers have been unable to take holidays or sick leave.
The SRT earlier said it will request Transport Minister Sopon Zarum for permission to recruit more personnel to offset its manpower shortage, and that train maintenance will be upgraded following the worst rail incident in Thailand for many years. (TNA)


Phitsanulok declares a district disaster zone

Flood-hit Phitsanulok in northern Thailand on Tuesday announced Bang Rakam district a disaster zone as flash floods continued to damage farmland in Si Sa Ket province in the Northeast.
Floodwaters in Bang Rakam district remained dramatically high as the water level in the Yom River exceeds the critical point of one metre.
Continuous water run-off from nearby Sukhothai, Phrae and Kamphaeng Phet provinces boosted the floodwater level in Bang Rakam and flooded eight more nearby subdistricts.
Nearly 40,000 rais (about 15,800 acres) of paddy fields were submerged and damaged while residents busily moved their belongings and livestock to higher ground, according to Phitsanulok Governor Preecha Ruangchan.
In the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket, residents in Sila Lat district have suffered floods as high as one metre while some 2,000 rais (about 800 acres) of paddy fields in two subdistricts have been entirely destroyed.
A provincial irrigation team has drained water out of the affected areas and planned to build dykes to prevent water from flowing into agricultural areas.
Si Sa Ket was affected earlier by tropical storm Ketsana and floods have affected some 69,000 households in 19 districts and damaged farmlands and agricultural areas. (TNA)


Urinary Incontinence and Pelvis Clinic opens at Maharaj Nakorn Hospital

The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Wattana Nawacharoen, the Director of Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, and Dr. Chanane Wanapirak, Head of CMU?s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecolog.

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine have inaugurated a Urinary Incontinence and Pelvis Clinic at Examination Room no.5 in the Sripat Building of the Faculty of Medicine’s Maharaj Nakorn Hospital. The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Wattana Nawacharoen, the Director of Maharaj Nakorn Hospital.
At first, the clinic will be open every first and third Thursday of the month, between 9 a.m. and 12 a.m., with the aim of eventually opening once a week
According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Wattana, the clinic has been started to allow women who have urinary incontinence and pelvic illnesses to obtain proper medical diagnoses and treatments, and to improve public awareness concerning diagnostic procedures.
In his speech, Dr. Chanane Wanapirak, head of CMU’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology said: that, as knowledge in gynecology has advanced in recent years, new studies have been done and many new treatments have been developed. However, up to this point, there had been no specialist service at Maharaj Nakorn Hospital for older Thai women with urinary or gynecological problems.
The new clinic will function as a centre for medical services, research, and education.


US pushes Thais to extradite suspected arms dealer

Ambika Ahuja
Associated Press

A senior U.S. Justice Department official on Tuesday October 13, told Thai officials the extradition of suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout is “a matter of great importance to the United States.”
U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden told reporters he was “disappointed” by the decision of a Thai lower court in August to reject a U.S. extradition request for the Russian and was hopeful an appeals court would rule to extradite him. No date has been set for the appeal.
Bout, once dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” has been accused of supplying dictators and warlords with weapons used in civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
The 42-year-old Bout was arrested in March 2008 at a Bangkok luxury hotel after U.S. agents posed as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which Washington classifies as a terrorist organization.
After his arrest, Bout was indicted in the U.S. on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to FARC, including more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles.
The Thai court rejected the U.S. extradition request, saying Thailand considers the FARC a political movement and not a terrorist group, and that extradition could not be granted for a political offense.
In talks with Thai officials, Ogden said he “raised the issue of Viktor Bout’s extradition proceeding, which is a matter of great importance to the United States. He stands charged with extremely serious crimes against Americans.”
Bout has been linked to some of the world’s most notorious conflicts, allegedly supplying arms to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The “Merchant of Death” nickname came in 2000 from a minister at Britain’s Foreign Office who was concerned that Bout was ferrying weapons around Africa.
Bout has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Ogden’s visit was the latest in a political tug of war between the U.S. and Russia, which wants to get Bout back to Moscow. Experts say Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, has been useful for Russia’s intelligence apparatus, and Russia does not want him going on trial in the United States.