NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Demonstrations begin in Bangkok

Government sets up barriers to protect City Hall

CMU Art Thesis show

“Clean Up Chiang Mai” launched

Combating haze and drought in Chiang Mai

PM counts hit high levels as drought and increased hot spots contribute to haze

Migrants receive health care in Mae Hong Son

TAT report on tourism situation in Chiang Mai

Migration policy in a global recession

Tesco Hang Dong gold shop robbed

American teacher deported

Border Patrol destroy Mae Hong Son opium poppy fields

Police arrest two men after hotel theft

Mae Jo Poll shows Mae Sai businesses hit hard by haze

 

Demonstrations begin in Bangkok

Anti-government demonstrators converge at a check point in Wang Noi, north of Bangkok on Saturday, March 13, 2010. Tens of thousands of “Red Shirt” demonstrators converged on the capital last weekend for a massive rally to force the dissolution of parliament. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

As of press time, anti-government protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) from upcountry gradually arrived in the Thai capital while demonstrators have also set up a huge platform at Phan Fah Bridge, a main protesting venue and tents were placed along Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

The Asian Highway from the northern provinces was jammed with heavy traffic for over 10 kilometres particularly around Nakhon Sawan as there was a constant flow of vehicles carrying protesters to Bangkok. UDD Red Shirts from upcountry began arriving in Bangkok and joined other demonstrators for a mass protest Sunday aimed at forcing the dissolution of parliament.(TNA)

 

Government sets up barriers to protect City Hall

Barbed wire and concrete block barriers have been set in place around City Hall in case of protests turning violent.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

Chiang Mai Provincial Authorities have set up a protective barrier of barbed wire and concrete block around Chiang Mai City Hall in the event of violence during protests. Chiang Mai governor Amornphan Nimanant made it clear that the Provincial Government put up the barriers so as to avoid any potential harm to either the civil servants who work there or to the public building itself in the event of a clash between protestors and government officials.

“We fear that some people will take this chance to escalate violence and damage City Hall and all parties involved, ” he noted., adding that the authorities have assigned government division heads to give the clear and good understanding among the general public.

“This is to show that the Chiang Mai Provincial government does not promote violence or take sides he concluded by adding that the government was unsure as to how the March 14 protests would turn out so felt protective measures were best.


CMU Art Thesis show

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

The Fine Arts Faculty at Chiang Mai University opened the exhibition to display the thesis works of its students majoring in printing, painting, and sculpture on March 5.

Works of art created as thesis projects by students of the Fine Arts printing, painting and sculpture department of Chiang Mai University.

This exhibition, run from March 5 - 27, at the CMU’s arts and culture hall and displays the thesis works of 38 senior students, with a goal to art expressing feelings, experiences, concepts, technique, and perspectives. CMU hopes to encourage the public to come and appreciate the art of the students and faculty members on display at the hall.


“Clean Up Chiang Mai” launched

Water is sprayed on the roads to reduce dust and dirt in the air.

Supoj Thiamyoj

The “Clean Up Chiang Mai” campaign started off on Friday March 12 with Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn being joined by Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization President Boonlert Buranupakorn and Dr. Ken Santitham, Permanent Secretary of the Municipality to begin cleanup activities on Boonruangrit Road in front of the Wattanothai Payap School.

Government officials and employees were mobilized for the cleanup activities, which included cleaning rubbish and spraying the roads with water.

Mayor Tassanai said they plan on spraying the roads twice a day, early morning and late in the evening so as to reduce dust in the air. The government has asked everyone to cooperate in fighting the haze by not burning, stating the garbage collection will be done daily and asking everyone to recycle and discard their rubbish rather than burn it.

The government has begun distributing face masks for those afflicted by the haze and has asked concerned government agencies to step up activities in monitoring and fighting the pollution caused by burning.


Combating haze and drought in Chiang Mai

By Staff reporters

The Chiang Mai Provincial Authority (PAO) is increasing efforts to help solve the haze crisis in the city, said Boonlert Buranupakorn, the president of Chiang Mai PAO. He said that more anti-burning promotional campaigns to increase awareness among the general public will be instituted. In addition, more artificial rain making had been readied.

President Boonlert added that even though the air pollution in Chiang Mai isn’t as severe as nearby provinces he still felt that active measures needed to be taken to combat the haze and drought.

“The haze has blocked the scenic views and beauty of Chiang Mai city, which is regarded as a world famous tourist spot. We plan to work in cooperation with agencies concerned, so as to help speed up the installation of water spraying machines around the city roads to make the city wet so as to reduce dust in the air”.

In addition, he said, the PAO would work in cooperation with the Royal Artificial Rain Making Center, Northern Region to bring in four aircraft to launch the artificial rain making, starting from March 11. He noted that the PAO would spend 200 million baht to help provide assistance to people requesting help in combating the drought, About 10 water trucks have been engaged to provide water.

PAO President Boonlert said currently 10 out Chiang Mai’s 25 districts had been announced as the disaster areas due to the drought.


PM counts hit high levels as drought and increased hot spots contribute to haze

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

The Chiang Mai Provincial Authority has asked for cooperation from all sides to help solve the haze crisis in Chiang Mai. The Pollution Control Department has informed concerned agencies and the general public in the affected areas to be strict on prevention measures, and to restrict burning.

Tharnthip Thong-Ngarmkham, Chiang Mai Provincial Authority public relations officer explains measures to combat the crisis and asks the public to report fires.

Tharnthip Thong-Ngarmkham, the public relations officer for the Chiang Mai Provincial Authority reported that the Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has reported very high Particulate Matter (PM) levels as a result of drought and increased burning in agriculture and forest fires.

The PM volumes in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lumphun, Lampang and Mae Hong Son were found to be in excess of the standard level of 120 micro, she said, adding that this year’s situation was likely to be as bad as 2007.

Satellite imagery shows an increased number of hotspots due to burning in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lampang and Nan provinces. The PM levels in Chiang Rai were measured at 278.2 microgram per cubic meter, and thick smoke has delayed and suspended air flights to Mae Hong Son.

“Haze and smoke from fires has caused road accident, as well as a health hazard. The air pollution is likely to continue for a few more months, so we have asked for the general public to join hands in restricting fires. If anyone sees a fire please inform the Hot Line at Or Sor (volunteers) number 1362, or Por Por Hotline 1784 they are available 24 hours a day.

For more information about the pollution levels in the city, see: www.pcd.go.th.


Migrants receive health care in Mae Hong Son

Khajohn Boonpath

Mae Hong Son Provincial Authority and the International Organization for

Migration (IOM) opened a public health care clinic on the Thai-Myanmar border to help immigrants and hill tribes on the border.

Monique Filsnoel of the International Organization for Migrants presents IOM gifts to Dr. Thanongsarn Suthatham, center, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Public Health Ministry and a representative from the Mae Hong Son Public Health Office during the opening of the new health care project at Srisangwal Hospital in Mae Hong Son.

Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Health and IOM Thailand plan to treat migrant health care issues such as those associated with heavy labor, pregnancy, child care and communicable diseases.

On March 4, Dr Thanongsarn Suthatham, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of Public Health and Ms. Monique Filsnoel of IOM Thailand opened the border public health project in Mae Hong Son.

Chiang Rai and Tak together with IOM implemented migrant border health care projects in 2003 and 2005 respectively. The heath care project has since spread to Samut Sakhon, Ranong, and Phang-Nga.

The project team also visited Ban Mai San in Tambon Mae Lana, Pang Mapha district, Mae Hong Son, where the health care project. The border health care project is also supported financially by USAID, the European Commission, the Japanese government, the Irish government, UNOCHA, World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF.

Ms. Monique Filsnoel, of the IOM, said that they had helped about 20,000 immigrants by transiting them from Mae Hong Son to third countries since 2005.


TAT report on tourism situation in Chiang Mai

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Chiang Mai (TAT) is concerned that political turbulence and air pollution could have a detrimental effect on Chiang Mai’s tourism prospects over Songkhlan, according to Chalermsak Suranant, Director of the TAT Chiang Mai office.

Chalermsak Suranant, the director of TAT’s Chiang Mai Office.

The TAT plans to run an informational campaign for tourists so they can know the situation and has asked local hotels to offer a 50% discount to help boost visitors during the Songkhlan holiday in April.

“But, if political turbulence gets worse this will really affect the tourist sector. Last year’s Songkhran period in April saw hotel room booking rates drop from the normal rate of 80 per cent to only 59 per cent.”

He added that the forest fires and haze in the North was, he felt, not such a serious effect on tourism, even though the PM in volume was measured higher than the standard level of 120 microgram per cubic meter in several Northern provinces.

“So far, the TAT has not been informed of cancellation or changes of tour group routes to Chiang Mai. The tourism situation is currently still normal and there are bookings during the Songkhran water festival. However, the TAT offices will be sure to update any information that might affect the Chiang Mai travel industry,” he concluded.


Migration policy in a global recession

U.S. Consulate General offers special seminar on the Thai situation

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

The U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai held a lecture on Migration Policy in a Global Economic Recession: Views on the Thai Situation on March 11. Dr. Phillip L. Martin of the University of California at Davis spoke to the audience of business people, lawyers, academics, civil servants, the labor sector and the general public.

Dr Martin said that this past year’s economic recession has been regarded as the worst in the past 50 and that migration patterns have been affected by it.

Dr. Philip L. Martin of UC Davis was invited by the U.S Consulate General to give a talk on Migration Policy in a Global Economic Recession: Views on the Thai Situation.

The neighbouring countries of those countries most affected, like the United States, Europe and some Asian countries would also be affected by the slowdown in labor migrants. He added that Thailand has 37 million people in the labor sector, and 5 percent or 1.8 million people of them were foreign migrant labor with only about one third of this figure registered legally with the Thai authorities.

He added that in Thailand, for every 20 people working, there is one foreign immigrant. Most of these immigrants were in the industrial sector while some earned their living in the agricultural sector, fisheries, and construction.

“Some of them work in the garment factories, while some work as housemaids, mostly live in Bangkok, the southern provinces, and the districts on the Thai – Myanmar border.”

He added that immigrant labor from neighboring countries had become an important part of the structure of Thai labor markets.

He furthered that the economic recession in Thailand in 2008 – 2009 was very different from the recession in 1997 – 1998 because the recent recession originated from the financial status in the USA rather than in Thailand, and then spread out worldwide, resulting in a drop in international trade and the resulting job losses.

He concluded that it was not yet clear if the recession had resulted in stricter rules and regulations applied to financial institutions, something necessary to prevent further re-occurrences.


Tesco Hang Dong gold shop robbed

By Staff reporters

A lone man armed with a hammer robbed the Yaowarat gold shop in the Tesco Lotus Hang Dong branch by smashing the glass shelves and escaped with more than 30 gold necklaces worth more than 540,000 baht, according to the Chiang Mai police. The suspect escaped with an accomplice on a red Honda Wave motorbike.

Pol. Gen. Sommai Kongwisaisuk, the commander of the Chiang Mai Provincial Police inspecting the damage caused by the robbery at the Yaowarat Gold Shop at the Tesco Lotus Hang Dong. (Photo courtesy of Wichai Tapriew)

Police were called to the store after the 8 p.m. robbery on March 6. CCTV cameras in the store revealed the robber to be wearing a helmet, blue jacket and red t-shirt, black gloves and blue jeans. It is estimated that he is between 155 and 160 cm tall and between the ages of 35 to 40.

The police believe the suspects observed the gold shop before robbing it and had planned an escape. However, Pol. Gen. Sommai Kongwisaisuk, the commander of the Chiang Mai Provincial Police, ordered police to set up a road block in hopes of apprehending the fleeing suspects.


American teacher deported

By Richard Hardy

Claude Lavallee, an American teacher based in China who was arrested in Chiang Mai without charge, has been deported to the US, accompanied by 2 US marshals.

Fifty-nine year old Lavallee had his passport confiscated at the Chiang Mai U.S. Consulate when he went in during his holiday here to have extra pages inserted into it. He was told that 15 years ago a bench warrant had been issued for him in Fairbanks, Alaska, for failing to attend court on a charge of possessing 2 ‘bong’ pipes, used for smoking cannabis.

Lavallee responded that his lawyer had told him he need not attend, and he had heard nothing of the matter since.

Thai police arrested Lavallee as he left the Consulate, and he spent over 2 weeks in a small mosquito and cockroach infested cell in Phra Singh Police Station. A diabetic with angina and high blood pressure, he relied on the English owner of the guest house where he had been staying to take him medication and extra food.

Apart from making representations over the cell conditions, U.S. Consul-General Mike Morrow said that he could not comment on the case.

Less than a week after being transferred to immigration prison, Bangkok, Lavallee was met on March 9th by 2 U.S.Marshals who accompanied him on a flight to Los Angeles, to be met by officers who would take him to Alaska.

In a text message to friends, Lavallee said that he wanted nothing more than to attend court in Fairbanks and settle the matter. Conditions in the Bangkok jail had been much better than the Chiang Mai police cell, but he had met an inmate there who had been awaiting deportation for 23 years.

Having lost his job in China, Lavallee is hoping that a friend there can sell his car and a motorcycle to help pay for all the air fares, which he must at some time reimburse.


Border Patrol destroy Mae Hong Son opium poppy fields

A member of the BPP prepares to destroy
a 2400 sqm field of opium poppies in Mae Hong Son.

Khajohn Boonpath

The Border Patrol Police’s 337th company based in Mae Sariang ,Mae Hong Son, led a police force to destroy a 2400-square-meter opium poppy field bordering Chiang Mai province. The field was pinpointed by the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) from a satellite map.

Late last month, Pol Lt-Col Aphichart Rakpong, BPP Commander traveled by helicopter to the opium fields located in Ban Thab, Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai, on the border with Mae Lanoi district, Mae Hong Son. ONCB sources noted that the hilltribes people grew opium poppies and then sold the raw opium on to refineries set up in Myanmar.


Police arrest two men after hotel theft

The two suspects in custody at the Chang Puak Police station.

Supoj Thiamyoj

Police arrested two men for impersonating police officers and theft in an attempt to rob guests at the Venus Hotel in Chiang Mai on March 10. Chang Puak police led by Pol Col Pisut Noipaksa charged the two suspects, identified as Berm Chaemsri, 53, resident of Nong Kwai in Hang Dong, and Kasem Sriwilai, 50, of the Wat Ket neighborhood, with theft and impersonating a police officer.

The police arrested them and found a walkie –talkie, 11,000 baht in cash stolen from the hotel’s guests, motorcycle and clothing.

Police also charged them with additional theft, saying they had been snatching bags while driving by on a motorcycle.

The police then took one of the suspects, Mr. Berm, to his house in Hang Dong for a further search and found ammunition for a handgun.


Mae Jo Poll shows Mae Sai businesses hit hard by haze

Nopniwat Krailerg

Nearly 64 % of the 335 Mae Sai business people questioned in a recent Mae Jo University Poll stated that this year’s haze and smoke pollution was far worse than last year. With 88 % offering that business was down due to the pollution.

Business owners questioned included those selling consumer goods, restaurant and food stall owners, transportation, and accommodation. .

When questioned regarding the source of the haze, 30.7 % of those polled blamed agricultural burning, 25.1 % neighbouring countries, 18.5 % blamed the burning of forest products, 17.6 % felt it was due to forest fires and “other” at 8.1%. 27 % of those surveyed believed that rain making would help ease the haze, while 45 % professed no solution.

Most polled felt the problems were caused by global warming, and a majority also felt that business had been hit very hard by the haze. With most stating there had been an 82.7 % reduction in revenues from this time last year.

The poll was instituted by the Economic Research and Agricultural Forecast Center at Mae Jo University to determine how hard Mae Sai and Chiang Rai have been hit by the increased pollution. Chiang Rai hit a PM level of 233.4 microgram per cubic meter, well over the acceptable level of 120 and has seen a resulting outflow of tourists due to the health hazards caused by the haze.