HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Good deeds behind the scenes

Nok Air Mini launches new route to Khon Kaen

Thai court rules on Thaksin’s wealth

Drought expected to cause water shortages in the dry season

Amazing Chiang Mai OTOP Fair every Saturday night on Tha Phae Road

Petitioner to halt construction reports death threats

PAO allocates 200 million baht to help relieve villagers affected by drought

Haze from forest fires causing health problems in Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son and Myanmar in tourism agreement

Thailand set to be rabies-free country in 2020

Mekong River runs dry; cargo ships grounded for 10 days

60,000 yabaa pills seized in Chiang Rai


Good deeds behind the scenes

TAO members attend workshops at 700 Year Stadium

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the opening of the TAO workshops “Doing good deeds behind the scenes” at the 700 Year Stadium on February 26.

Staff reporters
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn opened a new series of workshops at the 700 Year Stadium on February 27. Designed to teach members of Tambon Administrative Organizations nationwide the necessary measures to follow and implement royally sponsored projects as initiated by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej and HM Queen Sirikit.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was welcomed by Chairman of the Project, committee members, representatives of the Association of Tambon Administration Organizations (TAOs), the Association of Provincial Administration Organizations, (PAOs), and the Municipal League of Thailand to the series of workshops.

“Pid Thong Lang Phra” translated as attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha image means to do good deeds behind the scenes and is the focus of the 6 day workshops organized by the Local Administration Promotion Department, the Association of Tambon Administration Organization, Thailand, and the Pid Thong Lang Phra Project.

The workshops are aimed at driving the TAOs nationwide to follow the steps of royally-initiated projects, especially the work and philosophy of His Majesty the King, so that the TAO members could apply it to local development work.

The “Doing good deeds behind the scene” workshop began February 24, at the 700 Year Anniversary Stadium. Representatives from 6,000 TAOs nationwide, or about 8000-20,000 people were expected to attend the workshop which ended March 1, said M.R. Disanadda Disakul, the Project’s Secretary- General.

The first day of the workshop included instruction in the project’s objectives and the opening of the exhibition. On the second day workshop participants were divided into small groups for brain storming and the exchange ideas and experiences relating to enacting the proper guidelines of His Majesty the King’s royally-initiated projects.

On the fourth day, February 27, the Association of Tambon Administration Organization (TAOs), Thailand, presented their annual work and operations.

Dr Sumeth Tantivetchakul, a Project Committee member gave a lecture on His Majesty the King who devotes himself to help developing the country, and doing good deeds behind the scene. Other guest speakers were M.R. Disanadda Disakul, the Project’s Secretary General, Noppadol Kaewsupat, the President of the Association of TAOs), Thailand, Prapat Phucharoen, the President of the Municipal League of Thailand, and Sanant Suphanchanaburi, the president of the PAOs, Thailand.

Workshop lectures on the guidelines necessary to correctly implement HM the King;s Royal projects continued until the final day, March 1.


Nok Air Mini launches new route to Khon Kaen

Staff reporters

Nok Mini Air launched its new route between Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen on February 20. The flight takes about one hour and 20 minutes and will offer four round trips a week. The price of a one way ticket is priced at 2,500 baht according to Wanchai Chuangchaikitch, vice president of Nok Mini for Sales and Marketing.

The departure time at Chiang Mai International Airport is at 9.20 a.m. and arrives upon Khon Kaen Airport at 10.40 a.m. Departure from Khon Kaen airport is at 11.10 a.m. and the flight arrives at Chiang Mai airport at 12.30 p.m.

The inaugural flight arrives at Khon Kaen, Chalermsak Suranant, the Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai office was greeted by Khon Kaen Governor Pramote Satcharak.

Thai court rules on Thaksin’s wealth

By Thanyarat Doksone, Associated Press Writer
Thailand’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain. The Court ordered 46 billion baht ($1.4 billion) seized from ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s $2.29 billion in frozen assets, saying he had abused his political power for personal gain.

Members of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group gathered at the Grand Waroros Palace Hotel on Friday February 26 to await the Court’s decision on former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s asset’s case.

The Supreme Court said that “to seize all the money would be unfair since some of it was made before Thaksin became prime minister.”

The nine-judge panel, reading a lengthy verdict, said it had unanimously agreed Thaksin and his ex-wife still held shares in Shin Corp., a telecommunications giant he founded, while he was prime minister.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The court also agreed that he had shaped government policies on mobile phone regulations that profited the country’s largest service provider, also controlled by his family.

Legal experts have said that a ruling that Thaksin had hidden his shares in Shin Corp. while in office would lead to a court decision that government policies had benefited the company and constituted a conflict of interest.

Tight security was in place around the courthouse, amid government fears that Thaksin loyalists could react to the verdict with violence. Whatever the decision, Thailand’s four-year-long political turmoil is expected to persist.

The Supreme Court is broadly applying mostly untested anti-corruption statutes in determining whether Thaksin -a telecommunications tycoon before entering politics - became “unusually wealthy” by abusing his position at the head of government in 2001-2006.

Thaksin, who faces a two-year jail term in Thailand, was monitoring the proceedings from exile in Dubai, where he was scheduled to provide a running commentary via video link.

In an early decision favoring the prosecution, the judges dismissed defense arguments that the process leading to the trial was illegitimate. The defense had argued that a special committee set up to investigate Thaksin included appointees who were previously involved in the popular movement to oust him. It also questioned whether the committee had legal authority to bring the charges.

In a message on Twitter early Friday, Thaksin insisted all the money he and has family accumulated was “with our own sweat, labor and brains. We never cheated.”

The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva hopes Friday’s ruling will lead to a return of stability, but has ordered a security crackdown around the country, claiming that the pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” movement may be planning violence.

“We hope for the best,” said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn. “Of course many people fear for the worst but we are ready to manage whatever comes.”

His opponents accuse him of funding the Red Shirt movement to topple the government, and hope that seizing his assets will starve the movement. But at least one analyst says the anti-government movement will not simply fade away, even if Thaksin’s cash dries up.

“It would not put an end to Thailand’s crisis because now Thaksin’s supporters, the Red Shirts - the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship - they have evolved into their own force to be reckoned with,” says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.(AP)

Supporters of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gather across a street from Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. Thailand’s highest court prepared Friday to rule on whether Thaksin should lose part of his fortune for alleged corruption, with a decision either way unlikely to end four years of sometimes-violent political strife. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Drought expected to cause water shortages in the dry season

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Waterworks Authority for Region 9 in Chiang Mai is preparing for the drought in the region. Already dry, the upcoming dry season is expected to see conditions worsen. Charus Saenchit, Division Director said that his section is responsible for 130 square kilometers covering Doi Saket, Hang Dong, San Patong and Saraphi districts.

Charus Saenchit, Division Director of the Chiang Mai Waterworks Authority discusses plans for the dry season.

He added that his waterworks authority has three main sources of water; Mae Kuang dam, Paton water supply plant, and Umong water supply plant.

Mae Kuang dam can produce 50,000 cubic meters per day, and at present can distribute 20,000 cubic meters per day. The Paton water supply plant in Chiang Mai has a production capacity of 24,000 cubic meters per day, this plant currently uses water pumped from Ping River. The Umong water supply plant in Tambon Suthep has a production capacity of 30,000 cubic meters and water is pumped from the Mae Taeng irrigational canal.

However, he said that these three water sources are no longer sufficient for water supply and distribution. He added that more water will be supplied from Mae Rim Waterworks Authority and Lamphun Waterworks Authority in order to increase the supply to Chiang Mai.

Wittaya Suankaewmanee, Director of Water Distribution and Maintenance of the Irrigation Office explains Irrigation Offices announces expected water shortages.

In the past, water has also been pumped from Mae Yuak reservoir of the 33rd Military Circle. “In the case of a shortage, we plan to use water from the Mae Yuak reservoir, as well as from Mae Kuang dam, and from the Irrigational canal system. So I think that there should be sufficient water supply for Chiang Mai residents,” he concluded.

Farmers are also facing water shortages, as rice farmers used larger than expected amounts of water in January, according to Wittaya Suankaewmanee, Director of Water Distribution and Maintenance of Irrigation Office. Chiang Mai and Lamphun water sources are expected to drop lower than last year.

The Irrigation Office is responsible for maintaining and regulating three main water resources; the Upper North of the Ping River basin, the Kok (Fang) River basin and the Salween River basin which covers Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son, 2 major dams at Mae Ngad and Mae Kuang and 17 large reservoirs.

Wittaya said that rice farmers had used excessive amounts of water so far this year and that due to lower rainfall than expected, water shortages are anticipated for consumer consumption and farming.

The Irrigation Office has been working to inform the public about the upcoming drought with informational campaigns promoting water conservation.

Amazing Chiang Mai OTOP Fair every Saturday night on Tha Phae Road

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Amazing Chiang Mai OTOP Fair 2010, which began February 27 and will end April 10, will have more than 700 products on offer. Tha Phae Road from Wat Saenfang to Tha Pae Gate will be closed and turned into a walking street market every Saturday evening from 5 PM to midnight.

OTOP products from 25 districts that will be on offer at the new walking street market.

Nopawong Rathapathai, chairman of the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) Chiang Mai Provincial Network, stated that the Amazing Chiang Mai OTOP Fair 2010 will be held in conjunction with the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization, Chiang Mai Municipality, Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai Office, and Chiang Mai Provincial Community Development Office.

The Amazing Chiang Mai OTOP Fair 2010 event is being offered as a venue to open channels for sales and marketing for OTOP producers, operators, and exporters. OTOP products are joint public and private ventures that create jobs and increase income in local communities.

Lanna art and culture performances and demonstrations of local handicrafts will be featured, food, drink, snacks and other local produce will be on sale at the market. Chalermsak Suranant, director of TAT Chiang Mai, said that the TAT foresees the walking street market generating an increase of as much as 30% in revenues from travelers, tourists and locals who shop for goods at the market

“Chiang Mai handicrafts are really beautiful and this OTOP fair will be a good event before the big Songkran water festival in April,” he noted.

Petitioner to halt construction reports death threats

Nathee Theerarojanapong, and 10 representatives from Khon Hug Chang Kien, reported death threats to the Chang Phuak Police.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Nathee Theerarojanapong, one of a group who of representatives of the Ban Chang Kien community who filed a petition with the Administrative Court to halt the construction of high rise projects in the area on February 24, has since received death threats.. Nathee informed police that shortly after the petition was filed he received death threats over the phone and that signs and billboards erected by the group in the area have been pulled down.

Nathee and 10 representatives of the community are fighting the construction of high rise buildings that not only block the view, generate air and noise pollution and rubbish, but have also caused damages to nearby houses.

The group lodged a complaint with the Administrative Court to have construction.

PAO allocates 200 million baht to help relieve villagers affected by drought

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) plans to allocate 200 million baht to fight against the drought, said Boonlert Buranupakorn, the President of the PAO. The PAO will also cooperate with other agencies to relieve those suffering from the drought.

Boonlert Buranupakorn, the President of the Chiang Mai PAO talks about PAO plans to deal with a drought that is expected to be worse than previous years.

Boonlert added this year’s drought is expected to be worse than previous years. “The smoke covering Doi Suthep has worried Chiang Mai residents and the Chiang Mai PAO is working in cooperation with the municipality has prepared 30 trucks for water delivery to help people with water shortages” he said.

At present, the Chiang Mai PAO has received requests for help from villagers in 500 villages, he said, adding that water trucks have already been dispatched to the villagers in some areas.

“However, the number of water trucks is limited so we have coordinated with the municipality to ask for 20 more water trucks to help relieve drought conditions for villagers. Working in cooperation with other working agencies concerned is very important right now,” he concluded.

The Tambon Administration Organizations and the Bureau of Royal Rainmaking are both involved in the PAO’s operations.

“The Chiang Mai PAO has allocated a budget of 200 million baht to help relieve people’s suffering from the drought, however, we will have to consult with the Governor again, on how to help the general public during the drought disaster”, he concluded.

Haze from forest fires causing health problems in Mae Hong Son

Thai Airways flights delayed due to poor visibility

Khajohn Boonpath
Heavy smoke from forest fires in Mae Hong Son have been causing serious public health issues and negatively affecting the tourist industry as visitors flee the haze, according to Thakorn Lormsattaporn, Director of the Mae Hong Son Office of Natural Resources and Environment.

“Numbers of tourists visiting Mae Hong Son and Pai are visibly lower,” he noted. On February 20, he said he visited Pai district and noted that the usual numbers of tourists were quite low, The number has decreased by as much as 60 per cent, he added.

“This is because of the dry weather which has resulted in fires, with smoke and air pollution. This has reduced the number of tourists and visitors to Mae Hong Son. They have escaped from here to visit other provinces,” he concluded.

Thai Airways has been forced to delay flights into Mae Hong Son due to the heavy smoke and haze reducing visibility. Treeroch Nawamarat, manager of the Mae Hong Son office of Thai Airways International said that February 23 was the first day of really poor visibility and that flight TG190 from Chiang Mai had been delayed by 3 and a half hours due to the haze.

“This is because of the heavy smoke from forest fires and burning, covering Mae Hong Son town and the airport’s runways,” he added.

Peerat Ruangsuiksai , chief of Mae Hong Son Meteorological Station said that visibility has been varying from 1 kilometer to 3 kilometers.

“Normally, visibility should be at least 6 kms, so that pilots can land with safety,” he remarked.

“It is expected that the heavy smoke covering here will affect landings for a while, and the delays won’t end until the fires are stopped and the haze clears,” he noted.

Director Thakorn Lormsattaporn confirmed that smoke from forest fires and other fires had begun to affect the health of the town’s residents.

The latest report made on February 23, showed the PM 10, or measure of fine particulate matter, in Mae Hong Son was higher than the standard level of 120 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM10 was measured as high as 126 micrograms, long term exposure to such high numbers is dangerous for the public’s health.

Mae Hong Son and Myanmar in tourism agreement

By Khajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son and Myanmar have agreed to cooperate in promoting tourism to the area, with the new border pass at Huay Ton Noon being seen as a gateway to Nay Pyi Taw (Naypyidaw), established as Myanmar’s capital city in 2005 is about 200 kilometers north of Yangon.

Mae Hong Son governor Kamthorn Thawornsathit said delegates from the Myanmar government had met with Thai representatives from both the private and public sectors in Mae Hong Son late last month at the Golden Pai Resort to propose the new agreement.

Governor Kamthorn Thawornsathit, right, presents a souvenir from Mae Hong Son to Myanmar’s Director of the Department of Border Trade, Mr. Aung Soe Thein.

At the meeting, he said, the Thai government had proposed a tourism plan with a caravan tour beginning at Huay Ton Noon border pass in Khun Yuam district in Mae Hong Son to Myanmar’s Taung Oo and Yangon.

The route between Huay Ton Noon and Taung Oo town was used in World War II by Japanese soldiers and the historical significance of the route as well as the beauty of the environment is expected to draw tourists.

The Thai representatives also proposed cooperating in joint cultural activities, such as Songkhlan, and establishing sister cities between the two nations.

In addition, governor Kamthorn proposed that Myanmar consider sending their representatives to participate in international seminars to be held in Mae Hong Son to help with tourism management, commerce, border trade and culture.

“These ambitious plans are now under consideration by Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce, so as to step up the relationship between the two countries. It will be implemented as soon as possible,” the Governor concluded.

Thailand set to be rabies-free country in 2020

The Thai Ministry of Public Health said Wednesday that it planned to eliminate rabies from the country by the year 2020, concurrent with a similar global goal, according to Deputy Minister Panasiri Kulanatsiri, who said that this it could be possible because the disease is vaccine-preventable. Mrs Panasiri said that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) jointly urged all nations to get rid of rabies by 2020.

Globally, 55,000 people die annually from canine rabies. Some 52,250 of the rabies death cases or 95 per cent occur in Asia and Africa. In Thailand, approximately 10-20 people die of this zoonotic viral disease each year and most of the victims of dog bites are children under the age of 10, the deputy public health minister said. 80 per cent of biting dogs have owners and 47 per cent of the dogs do not have a vaccination history available.

Mrs Panasiri said the government had spent Bt1billion budget each year to contain and prevent rabies in human and animals but anti-viral vaccination in dogs can be administered in less than 80 per cent of the targeted areas.Currently, there are estimated eight million owned and stray dogs in Thailand.

The deputy minister expressed concern that around 90 per cent of rabies deaths were due to dogs aged less than three months, domestic or owned dogs which had not been vaccinated. The victims often did not visit hospital for inoculations after being bitten, as they thought that the owned, domestic dogs would not be infected with the often fatal virus.

In fact, according to medical authorities, 90 per cent of the animals contracting the rabies virus are dogs. The ministry therefore urged dog owners to take their pets to receive rabies vaccines and urged people exposed to suspicious animals to see veterinarians immediately. Disease Control Department director-general Manit Teeratantikanont said that six deaths from rabies has been reported in Thailand since the beginning of 2010.

The six victims included three Bangkok residents while the other three lived in Kanchanaburi, Saraburi and Samut Prakan provinces respectively. One of the victims died after returning to Bangkok after purchasing a dog in Chiang Mai.

In a bid to set up rabies-free zones, Dr Manit suggested that at least 80 per cent of total dogs aged three months or more in those areas should be be vaccinated to prevent rabies while the local administration officials should jointly allocate a budget and set up a vaccination programme for all dogs at least once a year.

Twelve provinces had joined the pilot rabies-free zone project this year including Nonthaburi, Samut Sakorn, Phuket, Songkhla, Rayong, Phichit, Tak, Chiang Rai, Sing Buri, Surin, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani. The issue of rabies disease came into spotlight after a female official of the public health ministry who also owned a pet shop at Chatuchak weekend market, died on February 14 after being bitten by one of her own dogs.Responding to this incident, Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit urged raisers of cats and dogs to have their pets vaccinated for free from Livestock Development Department. (TNA)

Mekong River runs dry; cargo ships grounded for 10 days

By Staff Reporters
and TNA News

Chiang Rai has been hard hit by the early drought this year, with dust and smoke at very high levels and water levels dropping.

Chiang Rai has very high levels of fine particulate matter (PM10); 132 micrograms per cubic meter while the standard allowable level is 120 micrograms per cubic meter. High levels of fine particulate matter can lead to respiratory difficulties and increased risk of death for children and elderly who are more affected by the fine particulate pollution.

The Chiang Rai Provincial Authority has asked the public to cooperate in reducing dust and pollution by refraining from burning farmlands until the end of March.

In addition, Thailand’s exports via Chiang Sean district in this northernmost province have been affected by a severe drought affecting the Mekong River, the 12th-longest river in the world and the 7th-longest in Asia.

According to Winai Chintongprasert, head of the Chiang Saen customhouse, the river, which forms the border of Thailand with Laos and Cambodia, and Laos with China, has run completely dry, with a very long line of sand dune islands in the middle of the river, forcing freighters from Thailand’s Chiang Saen Port to China’s Guanlei Port in Yunnan province and vice versa to have halted their runs for over 10 days.

Thai cargoes valued at more than Bt150 million are stranded aboard ships. The cargoes included palm oil, energy drinks and dehydrated longan.

The water level in Mekong River has fallen since the end of December and continued to decrease dramatically during February.

60,000 yabaa pills seized in Chiang Rai

Suspects found with yabaa pills are detained at the Mae Chan police station

BySupoj Thiamyoj
The Pha Muang Task Force, acting on a tip off on increased activity in drug smuggling along the Myanmar border from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, set up a blockade on the Mae Chan – Mae Ai road and arrested three suspects, found with 60,000 Yabaa pills, on February 23 in Chiang Rai.

Members of the Rangers set up a road blockade at Ban Kiew Satai, Tambon Pa Tueng, Mae Chan district, Chiang Rai. A search of a car stopped at the blockade yielded 60,000 yabaa pills in 30 bundles.

The three suspects have been identified as Kwan Thongkorn,29, a resident of Chai Nart province, Thawatchai Thongbai,39, and Mrs. Wilaiporn Thongbai, 31, both of Chonburi Province.

During the search, the authorities found pink yabaa tablets, with the brand WY, in their luggage in the trunk of the car. Police confiscated 30 packages; each package containing 2,000 pills, for a total of 60,000 pills.

The three suspects have been detained at Mae Chan police station for further questioning.