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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

12 deaths push Chiang Mai to the top of the list for the country during New Year holidays

Air Bagan inaugurates direct flight to Yangon

Ban Nong Krai native wins Miss Chiang Mai 2010

60th Anniversary of The U.S.Consulate General, Chiang Mai

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival begins this weekend

Former Japanese Prime Minister helps Karen students at Om Koi

Canadian tourist lost during a visit to Monthatharn Waterfalls

Drunk driving continues to be a problem

Mae Sai border trade booms over New Year

Pai officials destroy 5 rai of opium poppies

Our Better Chiang Mai

Over 539,000 yabaa pills confiscated over the New Year holidays

Pai Walking Street sees crackdown on alcohol advertisements

6,000 yabaa pills discovered after deadly clash with drug smugglers in Mae Ai

10 million baht worth of ya ice confiscated in drug arrest

Large opium poppy fields destroyed in Phrao

 

12 deaths push Chiang Mai to the top of the list for the country during New Year holidays

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Nakhon Ratchasima led the toll in number of deaths during the 7 dangerous days of the New Year holiday with 12 deaths in each province. Chiang Mai reported 116 accidents with 124 people injured. The majority of accidents were the result of drunk and reckless driving and driving without a helmet. Most of the vehicles involved in accidents were motorcycles traveling secondary roads.
At the closing of the center for the prevention of road accidents during the New Year, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Pairoj Saengpuwong discussed the 4 measures the government plans to take in preparation for the next big holiday, Songkran. The plan is to make sure the roads are in good repair, strictly enforce the driving laws, educate the public with a campaign to fight drunk driving,and to ready medical personnel in preparation. He added that although they had failed to reduce the number of casualties from road accidents the staff at the center had performed well.
Chiang Mai saw an increase of 27 accidents from last year or 30.34%. Fang district had the highest number of accidents, with 14 accidents while the Muang district had 12 accidents. Samoeng and Mae Chaem districts reported no accidents.
Chiang Rai, which also topped the nationwide death toll had 92 accidents, 26 less than last year, a 22% drop. 98 people were injured and 12 people died which was an increase from last year’s total of 9 fatalities.
The nationwide total was reported as 3,534 accidents, killing 347 people and injuring another 3,827, while Narathiwat, Pattani, Sakon Nakhon, and Ang Thong had no road accidents during the 7 dangerous days of the New Year.

 

Air Bagan inaugurates direct flight to Yangon

The inaugural flight of Air Bagan’s direct Yangon – Chiang Mai route touches down at Chiang Mai International Airport on January 7.

Supoj Thiamyoj
Myanmar’s Air Bagan launched the inaugural flight of its new direct Yangon – Chiang Mai route on January 7 with Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Pairoj Saengpuwong,
Chalermsak Suranant, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai Office, and Flying Officer Wisit Aiwprapa, Director of Chiang Mai International Airport on hand to greet Htoo Thet Htee, the Managing Director of Air Bagan to Chiang Mai as he and Air Bagan board members arrived at Chiang Mai International Airport on the airline’s first flight of the new route.
The new route will fly twice a week, one flight each on Sunday and Thursday using Fokker 100 airplanes with a seat capacity of 100. Departure time from Chiang Mai will be at 2:30 pm and from Yangon 12 p.m. and the flight will only take two hours.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Pairoj Saengpuwong (right)
 presents Htoo Thet Htee, Managing Director of Air Bagan
and Air Bagan board members a welcome gift on their arrival in Chiang Mai.


Ban Nong Krai native wins Miss Chiang Mai 2010

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
A Chulalongkorn University first year student, Ban Nong Krai native Miss Khishakorn Homboonyasak. 19, won the 57th Miss Chiang Mai 2010 Beauty Contest. The Miss Chiang Mai 2010 beauty pageant’s final round was held at the Chiang Mai Winter and Red Cross Fair on January 5, out of 22 contestants, 5 finalists were selected. Audiences cheered on their favorites despite the cool weather.

Miss Chiang Mai 2010 Khishakorn Homboonyasak is joined by the runner ups at the 57th Miss Chiang Mai contest.
Nutcharin Chanpraisri, the Chief Judge of Region 5 headed the contest judging panel of 20 people. The first round of the contest saw all 22 girls dressed in Thai Lanna traditional costumes, followed by the swimming suit competition. Following a selection by the judges, only 10 girls participated in the evening gown competition which resulted in the 5 finalists. The remaining 5 underwent an interview with the judges and the winner was pronounced after this final round.
In addition to the title, Khishakorn Homboonyasak received a cash prize of 100,000 baht with a cloak, a sash, a diamond crown and a trophy. The new Miss Chiang Mai Krishakorn also won Miss Photogenic by popular vote.
The first-runner up was Miss Thanyanuch Singkham, 17, the second-runner was Miss Chananporn Wongsaa, 23, and the third –runner up was Miss Athitaya Kunnala 18 while the fourth-runner up was Miss Machimala Suthana, 20. Chananporn, the second-runner up, also won the title of Miss Popular which was voted by counting the number of balloons she had received from the audience, she also won Miss Personality.
Miss Chiang Mai 2010 Khishakorn, also known as Gift, is a student in Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Communication Arts. She enjoys photography and wants to enter the entertainment industry. “One of my favorite things is to visit the baby panda Lhin Ping, after visiting Lhin Ping I feel so proud and lucky,” she concluded.


60th Anniversary of The U.S. Consulate General, Chiang Mai

President of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce Narong Kongprasert, left, and staff present a basket of flowers to congratulate U.S. Consul General Michael K. Morrow on the 60th anniversary of the US Consulate General in Chiang Mai.

Supoj Thiamyoj
The U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai celebrated its 60th anniversary on January 7 with U.S. Consulate General Michael K. Morrow joining Chiang Mai Governor Amornpun Nimanun to welcome guests and open the event.

Weerasak Puttharuksa, 20, receives the award for winning the 60th Anniversary Logo Design contest from the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, Michael K. Morrow. Weerasuk, a student at the King Mongkut Institute of Technology, displayed the national flags of the United States and Thailand under Chiang Mai’s famous symbol, Wat Prathart Doi Suthep.
Prince Royal’s College students opened the event with a performance of Lanna Drum and U.S. Consulate General Michael K. Morrow announced upcoming projects that the U.S. plans to develop to further trade between the two countries, as well as provide support for both cultural and economic projects. The U.S. Consulate General will host conferences between American and Thai IT business people and also develop programs for Thai youth to combat drug abuse and develop their skills.
Weerasak Puttharuksa, 20, from the King Mongkut Institute of Technology in Ladkrabang Faculty of Architecture was announced the winner of the 60th Anniversary Logo design. The event concluded with the showing of the contest winning short film by Maejo University titled “Kid Thueng Chiang Mai”.

A group of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Education students join
the celebration at the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai.


Bo Sang Umbrella Festival begins this weekend

Chawan Swas-chuto, 2nd left, deputy director of the SMEs Promotions Office, Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Chumpron Saengmanee, 2nd right, and the Miss Bo Sang Umbrella or Miss Thida Rom Bo Sang contestants announce the upcoming Bo Sang Umbrella Festival.

Supoj Thiamyoj
The Bo Sang Umbrella and San Kamphaeng Handicraft festival are set to begin January 15 and run through January 17 Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Chumporn Saengmanee, and Chalermsak Suranant, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand ‘s Chiang Mai Office, Thanupong Chalernsurapirom San Kamphaeng district-chief officer, and Tonpao Mayor Paitul Chaiyasoundwong Tonpao announced at a recent press conference.
Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant will celebrate the opening of the festival on January 15, at 4.30 p.m. at Bosang intersection, San Kamphaeng. Tonpao Mayor Paitul Chaiyasoundwong said “the highlight of the festival will be a grand parade, with pretty girls holding umbrellas as well as a cultural parade, local cultural shows, Northern Thai musical instrument concerts and the Miss Bo Sang beauty contest. We hope the festival will draw Thai and foreign tourists to the villages. This festival allow visitors to learn more about the long history, culture, arts, and way of life of Bo Sang villagers, “ the Mayor concluded.


Former Japanese Prime Minister helps Karen students at Om Koi

By Khajohn Boopath
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on hand to dedicate a new 3 room school at Ban Huai Kong in Om Koi recently. Prime Minister Abe told the gathered crowd that the 700,000 baht building was constructed to add further capacity to a school that provides kindergarten and primary education for 399 Karen children living in the isolated areas around Om Koi.
The Build Schools for Children in Asia Association, of which the Prime Minister is a member as well as 65 current and former members of the Japanese Parliament, was founded in 1997 and has given financial support for the construction of schools in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and other Asian countries. The association plans on building schools in Vietnam next year but takes requests for help as well.


Canadian tourist lost during a visit to Monthatharn Waterfalls

Canadian Andrea Hatvani, center, is seen with the Tourist Police and Rescue teams after finding her way down Monthahtarn Waterfalls with their help.

Canadian Andrea Hatvani, 26, was rescued after becoming lost at Monthatharn Waterfalls on Doi Suthep by calling the 1155 Chiang Mai Tourist Police phone number. The rescue team, realizing she was high up the steep track the follows the waterfalls, turned on the emergency siren to guide her back down the mountain. Meanwhile, rescue teams ascended up the track beside the falls to find her making her way back down. She expressed her gratitude at being helped so quickly and efficiently.


Drunk driving continues to be a problem

By Shana Kongmun
Chiang Mai has the dubious distinction of tying for the highest number of deaths from accidents over the New Year holidays. A heady stew of reckless and drunk driving, uneducated drivers and lax enforcement over the years has led to the high death tolls. This despite the highly publicized police intention to crackdown on drunk and reckless driving over the holidays. This despite an increased police presence across the city and around the province. Drunk driving is a huge problem in Thailand, something officials seem to have belatedly noticed. The death tolls over holiday periods continue to be appallingly high not only in Chiang Mai but across the country, New Year after New Year and Songkran after Songkran.
Crackdowns on alcohol sales to minors, and restricting alcohol sales to specific time periods certainly did no noticeable damage to the drunk driving problem nor reduce the number of seriously drunk teens on Huay Kaew at 5 a.m. New Years Day. And while the government reports more than 3,600 arrests for drunk driving nationwide for the 7 day period around New Year, it is guaranteed that this is just a fraction of the number of people driving drunk.
When it is socially acceptable to drink and drive, when the police make no serious effort to arrest drunk drivers every day of the year and not just New Year and Songkran and when there is no real education in schools, not just on drunk driving but on driving itself. The Thai government can certainly come up with a program to apply the same effective techniques to drunk driving education that were used to reduce population 30 years ago, and HIV/AIDS education 10 years ago. The new stricter fines, license suspensions and revocations certainly are a start but until the law is enforced on a daily basis, until people are educated to the dangers, until it no longer becomes socially acceptable to hop on one’s motorbike or get behind the wheel of one’s car pissed as a newt, the changes will be as dramatic as the 5% drop in the death tolls from last year.


Mae Sai border trade booms over New Year

More than 30,000 tourists visited Mae Sai, Chiang Rai during the New Year holiday season, to shop for cross border goods. Traffic into the Mae Sai border area was heavy as many Thai tourists headed there for last minute New Year shopping at the border markets in both Mae Sai and Tachilek in Myanmar with traffic stalled at some points for nearly a kilometer. Immigration queues were quite long as tourists waited to cross the border.
An Immigration Officer revealed that during the New Year period from December 31, 2009 – January 2, 2010, an estimated 8,000- 10,000 came to the border every day, boosting the economies of both towns by approximately 100 million baht.
The immigration officers at border check points were kept busy inspecting for contraband, such as liquor, cigarettes, porn videos and other illegal goods.
Ban Sobruak , Chiang Saen district, in the Golden Triangle, many locals and tourists came to pay respect to the 15.99 meter high statue of Lord Buddha, named Nawalarntue, which resides in the temple there. Many people came to make merit there and also prayed for the good health of HM the King. (PRD)


Pai officials destroy 5 rai of opium poppies

Khajohn Boonpath
5 rai of opium poppy fields were destroyed in Khun Sa village in Pai district recently. Niwet Poolsawat, Pai District Chief Officer joined the director of the Pai Drug Control Command, and 68 officials including the Army, Pai police and Ranger Forces in the hike over the mountainous region to find the fields hidden in thick forest.
According to Pai’s District Chief Officer, opium poppy fields have been reported in many isolated areas in the Pai district. He added that it is believed the destroyed fields belonged to a resident of Pong Sa subdistrict and that police intend to take legal action.


Our Better Chiang Mai

Members of various youth groups attended the Chiang Mai Iam or Our Better Chiang Mai workshop at the Chiang Mai Arts and Culture Center, near Three King Monument in order to learn the necessary skills in helping to develop Chiang Mai city. Songkrod Baoyeekan, editor of A Day magazine, far left, explains about the media and the necessity of media and magazines to Chiang Mai. “Chiang Mai Iam”, or Our Better Chiang Mai project plans to improve Chiang Mai and make it a more livalbe city, designed by both the local people and their communities and experts in design and city management. The three main areas of the project to be implemented this year will focus on reducing the number of garbage by 30 percent in the city, halting the release of waste water into city canals and promoting access to organic food sources.


Over 539,000 yabaa pills confiscated over the New Year holidays

3 drug traffickers were arrested by the Pha Muang Task Force with 100,000 yabaa pills, 15 packages of raw opium weighing 20 kgs, a .38 with 55 rounds of ammunition, and a grenade at Ban Rin Luang checkpoint in Chiang Dao District on January 3, 2009.

By Supoj Thiamyoj
Muensae Mouka, 26, a resident of Mae Ai, Chiang Mai, was arrested by the 334th Border Patrol Police (BPP) operations as he drove past the the police check-point at Ban Pa Low – Ban Cha Na in Mae Ai. The police were alerted by his suspicious behavior and stopped him for a search. The search revealed 10,000 yabaa pills and 30 grams of raw opium.
Muesae confessed to police that he had been hired by Pai Kha U to smuggle the drugs from Myanmar over the border into Mae Ai and then deliver to a drug buyer at Ban Pong Hi. He was taken to Mae Ai Police station to be charged with drug smuggling and for further questioning.
Acting on a tip off received over the New Year holiday that large numbers of drugs were expected to be smuggled over the border, the Pha Muang Task Force, in a joint operation with the Office of Narcotics Control Board, patrolled the area around Chiang Dao. Two Lahu tribesmen from Chiang Dao and a Burmese man were caught with 100,000 speed pills, 20kg of raw opium, a .38 revolver, 55 rounds of ammunition and a grenade were arrested at a police checkpoint in Ban Rin Luang, Chiang Dao District after engaging in a gun battle.
Maj Gen Prakarn Cholayuth, Commander of the Pha Muang Task Force, and Pornthep Aimprapai, the director of ONCB, region 5, reported that the members of the Task Force were patrolling the area around Ban Rin Luang on January 2 when they encountered three men carrying bags, when the police stopped them to open the bags, the men opened fire and tossed a grenade which failed to detonate. The Task Force members managed to overcome the three men and arrest them for assault and drug trafficking.
The next day, on January 4, the Pha Muang Task Force seized nearly a half a million yabaa pills in a road block near Fang.
In this incident, the Special Unit of Cavalry Regiment 4 under supervision of Pha Muang Task Force found 4 men crossing over the border from Myanmar carrying backpacks at Ban Pangtong in Fang district of Chiang Mai. When called out to stop and be searched, the men dropped their backpacks and fled back over the border into Myanmar. The backpacks were found to contain 400,000 yabaa pills.


Pai Walking Street sees crackdown on alcohol advertisements

Khajohn Boonpath
The operators of 20 venues along the Walking Street in Pai were prosecuted for violating the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act by advertising alcoholic drinks with signs and posters on December 26 when Dr. Saman Futrakul, Director of Alcoholic Beverage Control Office, Sumet Ongwandee, Deputy Director of Mae Hong Son Public Heath Office, and provincial excise officials inspected entertainment venues on Pai Walking Street.
According to Dr. Saman Futrakul, about 600 venues nationwide have been found in violation of the act by serving alcohol to minors as well as displaying public ads, and about 65 cases have been prosecuted. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Office has assigned provincial public health officials to inform business operators about the regulations of the act.
Sumet Ongwandee revealed that Mae Hong Son has seen an average of 3 drunk driving related deaths a month in the age group of 15 to 20 years old in the past 6 months. He has asked the Pai Police to redouble efforts to combat underage drinking and drunk driving.


6,000 yabaa pills discovered after deadly clash with drug smugglers in Mae Ai

Staff reporters
Pha Muang Task Force rangers clashed with drug smugglers in the mountainous area of Ban Huay Poo in Mae Ai resulting in the wounding of a ranger and the death of one of drug smugglers.
The rangers encountered the smugglers in the early hours of January 8 and stopped the men with the intent to search them. One man carrying a backpack ran into the forest firing a weapon at the members of the task force who returned fire. The second man resisted arrest pulling out a knife and cutting one of the rangers, Sak Bualek on the head. The man died at the scene after being shot by Sergeant Thawatchai.
The rangers then searched the surrounding area and found a second man lying dead with a one foot long knife, an MK 2 grenade, a bag containing forest trekking equipment, ammunition, a rifle, and 3 packages containing a total of 6,000 yabaa pills.
The ranger Sak Bualek was admitted to Mai Ai hospital for treatment.


10 million baht worth of ya ice confiscated in drug arrest

Mae Ai man arrested with 30,000 yabaa pills

By Supoj Thiamyoj
3 traffickers from Fang were arrested on January 6 with possession of 5.4 kilos of ya ice, or crystal methamphetamine. Sukhon Kongmuang, 48, Kammoon Yomkham, 51, and Sawang Himavej, 54, were arrested by the Pha Muang Task Force in Mae Na Wang in Mae Ai district with the drugs.

3 traffickers from Fang were arrested on charges of possession of 5.4 kilos of ya ice, or crystal methamphetamine. Sukhon Kongmuang, 48, Kammoon Yomkham, 51, and Sawang Himavej, 54, were arrested by the Pha Muang Task Force in Mae Na Wang in Mae Ai district on January 6.
Maj-Gen Sawat Krataithong, director of the coordination center for drug suppression along the northern border, and Pornthep Iamprapai, director of the Region 5 Narcotics Suppression Office announced the arrest and stated that the drugs could be sold for 2 million baht a kilo, making the value of the confiscated drugs more than 10 million baht.

Jaka Jafu, 55, of Mae Ai, was arrested by the Pha Muang Task Force in Mae Ai District on December 28, after the Task Force found 30,000 yabaa pills in his bag.
In a separate incident, a Mae Ai man was arrested with 30,000 yabaa pills. Police arrested Jaka Jafu, 55, in Mae Ai District on December 28, after finding 30,000 yabaa pills in his bag. The Pha Muang Task force was patrolling the area around Na Muan Village in Mae Ai when they spotted the resident of a remote village carrying what appeared to be a suspicious bag. Upon searching the bag, they found 30,000 yabaa pills and arrested the man for drug trafficking.
The Pha Muang Task Force will continue to investigate into the situation as they hope to uncover the network behind the drug trafficking in the area. The high number of drug arrests and confiscations in the area, led authorities to set up an operations center to combat drug trafficking in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son.


Large opium poppy fields destroyed in Phrao

Parkasit Mahasingh, Phrao District Officer with local police and governmental get ready to destroy fields of opium poppies in Ban Samlee in Phrao District on January 7.

Phrao District Office
Acting on a tip off, Phrao district officials found 3 opium fields, two fields were covered with 200 square wah of opium poppies, with an estimated weight of 200 kilograms and estimated value of 40,000 baht, while the third field was about 100 sq wah and an estimated weight of 100 kg. Parkasit Mahasingh, the Phrao District Officer, together with other local and government officials, found the fields located at Ban Samlee, Moo 11, Tambon Mae Waen in Phrao District on January 7.
The opium plantations were found fairly high in the mountains, at an altitude of 1,256 meters above the sea level. Four wheel drive vehicles were necessary to climb the mountainous roads. There was no direct access to the fields and the officials had to walk a further 3 and a half hours before locating the fields. Pol Col Pitak Thuwasithipong of the Phrao Police said that no suspects were apprehended in the raid as they must have fled before the police arrived to destroy the felds.
Phrao, given its high altitude, remote access and temperate climate is a well known location for the cultivation of opium poppies.