HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Mail wins accolades from Reporters’ Association of Chiang Mai

Ping River drying up in early drought

Chiang Mai Zoo celebrates Lhin Ping’s 9th month

Joint Army exercises with Singapore in Mae Rim

Chiang Mai Airport celebrates 22nd anniversary with new expansion

Makha Bucha day celebrated in Chiang Mai

Food stalls in schools receive Clean Food Good Taste certification

Villagers protest LPG station

One dead, 650,000 yabaa pills seized in Fang clash

Fire damages 50 year old Dechanukroh Boxing Stadium in Wat Ket

American tourist faces deportation on old charges


Chiang Mai Mail wins accolades from Reporters’ Association of Chiang Mai

Reporters Association of Chiang Mai committee members , Deputy governor Pairote Saengphupwong, and winners of Reporters Association shields of honour at the Reporters day party held at the Chiang Mai Grand View Hotel on March 4.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
Chiang Mai Mail was selected as the best local English language newspaper by the Reporters Association of Chiang Mai, marking the Reporters Day celebration on March 4.

The announcement, award presentations and party in celebration of Reporters Day was held at Grand View Hotel, and presided over by Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Pairote Saengphuwong. The party was well attended by local media, business people, and government officials.

Educational scholarships were presented to children of members of the local Reporters Association and Shields of Honour were given to those selected by the Association for their news reporting and for their social contributions to the community.

Chiang Mai News newspaper won for best local media relations, Thai News newspaper for best encouragement of local ethics, Thai Rath for best local crime news and photos. Kao Sod newspaper won for best local arts and culture promotion, Variety magazine for best local social creativity, TV Channel 3 for best local youth activities promotion, TV Channel 11 for best local tourism promotion, Lek Sarakam won best radio –television program commentator while GSSM FM 91.75 MHz radio station won best local community radio. Auto & Travel magazine received a shield of honour for best local automobile industry news and the Chiang Mai Mail won best local English language newspaper.


Ping River drying up in early drought

The water levels of the Ping River at the Ban Pa Daed bridge area in Tambon Pa Daed, Chiang Mai, have decreased dramatically with rocks emerging from the river.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
As a result of early drought and heat, the level of the Ping River has dropped drastically, with levels so low that people can walk from one bank to the other.

Particularly in the area around the village of South Pa Daed, Ban Khor Klang, in Tambon Pa Daed, the river is so low that the river bed is visible in places.

Additionally, wells, ponds, and reservoirs are drying out, with pumps being used to pump water out of the Ping River to water field crops and vegetable gardens.

At the Ta Wangtan and Phayakham weir areas, some people have brought in large rocks and sand bags to dam the water.

Three districts; Om Koi, San Sai and Chai Prakarn, have been declared drought disaster areas by the Provincial government, 30,000 rai of agricultural land has suffered from the drought.

The Irrigation Department has brought in 57 water pumping machines to install along the Ping River to help spray water into the communities’ field crops, and plants.

The district office authorities in Chiang Mai Province are inspecting the areas hard hit by drought to estimate the needs for water containers to store water for use in community schools, temple, and other public places.

The Ping River at the Tha Wangtan weir area in Tambon Pa Daed, Chiang Mai is seeing at very shallow levels.

Chiang Mai Zoo celebrates Lhin Ping’s 9th month

Supoj Thiamyoj
Lhin Ping celebrated her 9th month with a party organized by Prasertsak Boontrakulpoonthawee, chief of panda research and display project in Thailand, Dr. Kannikar Nimtrakul, panda veterinarian on February 27.

Lhin Ping enjoys her new play area on her 9th month birthday celebration.

Prasertsak said Lhin Ping is now 9 months old and reaching the curious stage, where she likes to learn about the things around her and develop her skills. The Zoo has installed a play area for her so that she can develop.

Fan clubs from around the country presented gifts to Lhin Ping for her birthday.

About 30 people from the Ban King Kaew Vibulsanti orphanage visited Lhin Ping and brought her a birthday cake as well as a panda ice sculpture.

Lhin Ping enjoyed birthday cake, ice sculture and other gifts very much in her new play area, Prasertsak said, adding that now Lhin Ping is about 25.3 kilograms, and is very healthy.

“It is expected that Lhin Ping’s new house will be completed next month by the time she reaches 10 months old on March 27,” he concluded.

Joint Army exercises with Singapore in Mae Rim

Singaporean and Thai soldiers take part
the Kotchasri joint military exercises in Mae Rim.

Supoj Thiamyoj
The Royal Thai Army took part in the 13 day Kotchasri 2010 joint military exercises with their Singaporean counterparts, focusing on tactical troop mobilization and assault. General Anupong Paochinda, the Thai Army Commander, presided over the closing ceremony of the military exercise on March 3 at Huay Tueng Tao Reservoir in Mae Rim District with the Singapore Army Commander, Major Niaw Gian Hong.

The joint operation of Thai and Singapore Armies, code named, Kotchasri has been taking place every year since 1977. This year, The Third Army Region’s 4th Infantry Division was responsible for the joint drills, organized from February 22 – March 6. About 600 Thai and Singaporean troops participated in the exercises.

Strategic areas in Mae Rim were developed for the battalion exercise, with the sharing of experiences, knowledge and skills in military planning and control, command and coordination, as well as developing the good relationship tightening of the two countries as the focus of the joint exercises.

Exercises in jungle survival, arming practices, aiding injured soldiers and field exercises aimed at developing and encouraging relations between the forces were staged in Mae Rim.

Chiang Mai Airport celebrates 22nd anniversary with new expansion

Piyaphan Champasut, Chairman of  the Airports of Thailand Co., Ltd,4th. left, cuts the ribbon marking the opening of an exhibition on the history of the Chiang Mai Airport to mark the 22nd anniversary on February 26.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
Chiang Mai International Airport celebrated its 22nd year anniversary last week, as the airport readies itself to be the regional hub for air freight and passenger services. With recent expansion, the airport is now ready to handle 8 million passengers a year and income for the airport is expected to increase 40%.

Sereearat Prasutanont, Managing Director of the Airports of Thailand (AOT) said that they plan to accelerate development of airport facilities, hoping to propel the airport into one of the top 5 airports worldwide.

Established in 1988 under the Commercial Aviation Department the Chiang Mai Airport was transferred to the AOT in 2002. The AOT has worked to develop its basic infrastructure to meet standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Currently, 14 domestic and international airlines use the Chiang Mai Airport with an average of 75 flights a day. Six domestic carriers, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Orient Thai, Nok Air and Nok Mini operate a total of 465 flights a week.

With a budget of more than 12 billion baht, 14 projects have been started or near completion that will meet the growing demand on the airport. In addition to terminal changes and additions, new landscaping is planned to make the airport better reflect the Lanna culture of Chiang Mai to visitors.

Other plans include an energy saving project in honor of HM the King; the Green and Clean Airport. There are also plans to build a terminal for private and chartered flights.

Makha Bucha day celebrated in Chiang Mai

Wat Phra Singha Woramahaviharn was the site of Makha Bucha day activities.

Supoj Tiamyoj
Both Thai and foreign Buddhists in Chang Mai lit candles and circled the main building of Wat Phra Singha Woramahaviharn three times, or performed Wien Tian as the action is called, to celebrate Makha Bucha on the evening of February 28.

Makha Bucha Day marks the anniversary of the Lord Buddha teaching the principles of his religion to the 1,250 monks he had ordained and who had convened without any prior notice. This holiday falls on the full moon of the third lunar month.

At 7.00 p.m. Phrasingha Vichai, the abbot of Wat Phra Singha Woramahaviharn accompanied by Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant, and his wife Sunatra Nimanant, the President of Provincial Red Cross, Chiang Mai chapter performed the Wian Tien ceremony together with thousands of people.

In the morning of the day, people made merit by giving alms to the monks, and then listened the Dharmma teachings at the temple in the afternoon. And in the evening, people went to the temple to perform the Wian Tien ceremony, so as to bring luck, happiness and prosperity to their lives.

Food stalls in schools receive Clean Food Good Taste certification

Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn presented Clean Food Good Taste certificates issued after Municipality inspection to operators of restaurants and food stalls at the Yupparaj Witthayalai School on March 5.  Mayor Tassanai said that the health inspectors inspect shops and stalls in schools and colleges in the municipality every year to ensure that cleanliness standards remain high. The Municipality is pushing for  every stall and restaurant to work to obtain the Clean Food Good Taste certificate.

Villagers protest LPG station

Villagers from Ban Mai Santueng in Kuang Pao demonstrate in front of City Hall, protesting the construction of a natural gas plant in their area.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
More than 100 villagers from Ban Mai Santueng, Chormthong district, Chiang Mai staged a rally protesting against the construction of an LPG gas station in their area as they fear a re-occurrence of the gas explosion that destroyed the lamyai drying plant in San Patong district several years ago.

On March 2, the villagers from Moo 8 (Group), tambon Kuang Pao, Chormthong District, staged the demonstration in front of Chiang Mai City Hall, calling for the government to help halt the construction project under the supervision of a private company.

Organizers said that the company has been granted the license for the construction of the plant in the village despite villagers protesting many times. Villagers worry about a repeat explosion as well as it negatively affecting the environment, natural resources and health. One of the protesting villagers said that the majority of villagers did not approve of the project during a public hearing, on December 29 with members of the TAO (Tambon Administrative Organization) and that they had petitioned several government agencies.

“However, this private company still goes ahead with its gas station project, so we gather here to call for Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant to give us the answer in 7 days ,” he said. He added that the gas plant will be very near an ice production plant already in the village.

Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Chumporn Saengmanee received the villagers’ petition on behalf of the Governor and also met with the leader of the protest, village headman Praphan Namwong and Seree Kangwalkitch, the head of Chiang Mai Provincial Energy Office.

The Energy Office recently sent a letter to the project operator to temporarily suspend construction, signed by the Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant. Protestors said that at the last public meeting, they had aired concerns that there had not been an environmental impact study.

One dead, 650,000 yabaa pills seized in Fang clash

Supoj Thiamyoj
The 3rd Army Region Command and Pha Muang Task Force clashed fiercely with drug traffickers in Fang, killing one of them and seizing more than 650,000 yabaa pills. Acting on a top off that large quantities of drugs were expected to be moved through the area, members of the Pha Muang Task Force and a unit from the 4th Calvary were dispatched to Doi Suitang, located in the southwest of Fang District, 3 kilometers from the Myanmar border.

Deputy Governor Pairote Saengphuwong and Lt-General Tanongsak Aprirakyothin inspect the haul of weapons and drugs at the Pha Muang Task Force Headquarters.

On February 28, after a gun fight ensued between the units and 20 drug smugglers, the Task Force members found the body of one of the smugglers, two AK-47 assault rifles, a 9mm hand gun, and 650,000 yabaa pill in six green backpacks.

The next day, at the Pha Muang Task Force Headquarters, Lt - General Tanongsak Aprirakyothin, and Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Pairote Saengphuwong inspected the haul sized from the drug traffickers. Lt-Gen Tanongsak said that he believes that members of the Wa are responsible for trying to smuggle the drugs from neighboring countries into Thailand, especially along the northern border areas between Thailand and Myanmar.

“There seems to be more and more drug smuggling through the northern border areas in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces,” he remarked, adding that it is the duty of the Third Army Region authorities to be on alert and to deploy operations against the drug smuggling into Thailand.

Fire damages 50 year old Dechanukroh Boxing Stadium in Wat Ket

By Nopniwat Krailerg
Police were informed of a fire at Dechanukroh Boxing Stadium, Kawila camp, on Sannalung road, in Wat Ket in the Muang district in the early hours of March 2. The municipality dispatched 6 fire engines and a water truck, and a full complement of fire fighters and rescue workers to the scene. They were joined by fire fighters and 4 fire engines from the 33rd Military Circle at Kawila Camp.

The fire had started in the boxer’s rooms and spread quickly to the rooftops of the 50 year old wooden building. It took firefighters about 45 minutes to get the blaze under control.

Pol Lt Col Songtham Chankan, police inspector of Mae Ping Police said given the age of the building and the construction materials, the fire caught fast as the dry wood burns easily. He added that it is believed to be an electrical short circuit that caused the fire but that the forensic unit will investigate to determine the cause of the blaze.

Blaze at Dechanukroh Boxing Stadium in Wat Ket on March 2 caused half a million baht in damage.

American tourist faces deportation on old charges

By Richard Hardy
An American tourist is being detained by police in Chiang Mai after a routine visit to the U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai unearthed a15 year old warrant from the state of Alaska.

American Claude Levallee is seen here in a classroom photo, teaching in China. Mr Levallee is currently being held pending deportation on a 15 year old charge from the U.S.

Life changed dramatically for 59 year old Claude Lavallee on February 21st after he walked into the U.S. Consulate to have more pages inserted into his passport. The passport was confiscated and on leaving he was arrested by Thai police and taken to Phra Singh police station to await deportation.

He has been told that the actions are due to his failure to attend a court hearing in Fairbanks, Alaska, 15 years ago on a bench warrant for possessing 2 ‘bong’ pipes, used for smoking cannabis. No drugs were found in his possession and traces in the pipes were too small to measure.

“My lawyer told me there was no need to attend court and I have never been told that a warrant was issued” said Mr Lavallee, speaking from the small cell he shares with 7 other men. “I renewed my passport in 2003 and there was no problem. I should have returned to my job in Zhengzhou on February 27th. Now I have lost my job and probably a car and motorcycle there too.”

American Consul-General Mike Morrow said that representations had been made to Thai police over the conditions in which Mr Lavallee is being held, but he could not comment further on the case.

A diabetic with angina and high blood pressure, Mr Lavallee now starts his 3rd week in detention and has a heavy cold. He says his cell is infested with mosquitoes, and at night ants and large cockroaches appear through the gaps in the wooden floor on which he has to sleep. The toilet is an open pipe in one corner. His one regular visitor is the English manager of the guest house where he stayed, who takes food and medicine to him.

“My one intention now is to return to Fairbanks, go to court, sort this matter out and put it behind me” emphasized Mr Lavallee. “I have not broken any law in Thailand, but of course am now overstaying my visa. The Thai police are quite friendly and seem just as bemused as I am about the whole thing.”