HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Red shirts burn Prime Minister’s coffin at Democrat HQ

Haze reaches crisis levels in the North

Newly renamed Ratchaphruek Royal Park lays Songkran plans

Air Berlin launches code share with Bangkok Airways

Soy milk producer Vita Milk signs agreement with agriculture co-ops.

60 Earth Hour to switch electricity off

Abbot sprinkles holy water after King Kawila statue splashed with blood

CCTVs installed to monitor traffic violations

Mae Hong Son reels under record haze

17 killed in passenger bus accident in Myanmar


Red shirts burn Prime Minister’s coffin at Democrat HQ

Rak Chiang Mai 51 and UDD members parade down Huay Kaew
in protest against the current government.

Supoj Thiamyoj
About 500 members from the Rak Chiang Mai 51 and UDD (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship), led by UDD leader Phetchawat Wattanaphongsirikul and DJ Orm, Ms. Kanyapak Maneechak, paraded down Huay Kaew Road in a caravan of around 300 cars, motorcycles, songthaews and tuk tuks adorned with red flags and placards on March 18.

The group brought an empty coffin bearing the name of the prime minister to the local office of the Democrat Party opposite the Chiang Mai Administrative Court on the Chiang Mai-Lampang superhighway which they then burned in symbolic protest against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva and his coalition government. Leading red-shirt members took turns criticizing the Democrat-led government and urged Chiang Mai people to help oust the government and the aristocratic elite. They called for the dissolution of Parliament and for new elections.

More than 200 riot police were on guard at the Chiang Mai Democrat Party office for the protest. High ranking officers went to negotiate with the group’s leaders in an effort to avoid disruption or violence. Following negotiations the group burned the coffin in front of the Democrat Party Chiang Mai headquarters.

The protesters later returned to their unofficial base at the Waroros Grand Palace Hotel to ready the group to travel to Bangkok to join UDD protests.

A supporter of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, left, touches hands with passing motorcyclists during an anti-government demonstration on Saturday, March 20 in Bangkok. Thousands of motorbikes and cars jammed Bangkok roads, causing traffic chaos as the protestors travelled to major business areas in the city. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

UDD red shirted protesters in support of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ride around Bangkok in protest, bringing traffic to a standstill on Saturday, March 20. Protesters riding thousands of motorcycles and crammed into trucks and cars set off Saturday for a day long caravan through the streets of Bangkok, hoping to enlist residents in their “class war” against the government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)


Haze reaches crisis levels in the North

Haze blankets Chiang Mai, completely obscuring
the city’s famous view of Doi Suthep.

By Staff reporters
Thick haze has been blanketing the North for the past week with particulate matter (PM) levels exceeding recommended levels by record amounts. Mae Hong Son hit an all time high of 437 micrograms per cubic meter while Phrae was the only Northern Province to fall below the maximum recommended PM levels of 120.

Chiang Rai reached a crisis level of 329 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter on March 16, while Mae Hong Son hit a record level of 437 on March 17.

Also on March 17 Chiang Mai City Hall was measured at 268.4 and the Yupparaj School station in Chiang Mai was measured at 279.9 PM. Lamphun reached a PM level of 350 and Mae Sai was at 267. Doi Suthep was at 151.5 microgram, Phayao province was at 271 microgram, and Lampang province was measured at 200.4.

In Mae Hong Son province, Pramintre Wattanawaree, the head of Environment Working Group, Office of the Natural Resources and Environment said the

AQI or Air Quality Index reached 128, the recommended level is no higher than 100 and that the PM levels had reached the highest recorded in the past century.

Watchara Wathanyukanakorn, Chief of the Mae Hong Son Forest Fire Control Unit, brought in water trucks of more than 50,000 liters to spray water into the air and along city roads in the municipal in a bid to reduce the high temperatures and dust.

Peerat Ruangsuksai, the chief of Mae Hong Son Meteorological Station, said the visibility distance at the Mae Hong Son airport was only 1,600- 2,500 meters and resulted in postponing of the Thai Airways and Nok Air flights on the Chiang Mai –Mae Hong Son route.

Dr. Suwat Kittidilokul, head of the Mae Hong Son Provincial Public Health Office, said between March 1-14, 2,501 people were admitted to hospital for respiratory issues.

The AQI levels in Chiang Mai hit 121 at City Hall and 125 at the Yupparaj school station; the maximum recommended level is 100.

Aphiwat Kunarak, the Director of the Office of Environment, Region 1 Chiang Mai said that so far, these are the highest recorded levels this year and recommended area residents to avoid exercising outdoors, to keep fans blowing to keep the air moving and to wear masks. If people find their respiratory problems worsening, he recommended they see a doctor immediately stating that the record levels of haze could be a serious health hazard for many people.

The Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office is preparing to distribute 250,000 masks for area residents, while the Provincial Administration Organization is bringing in 24 water trucks to spray water on streets to help reduce the dust with plans to spray at four major areas regularly; Chiang Mai City Hall, the Sriphume fort or city corners, Tesco Lotus‘s Hangdong branch, and around the city moats areas, according to PAO President Boonlert Buranupakorn.

The Meteorological Department has forecast continued low pressure which could worsen the haze problems which have proved to be the worst on record.

Newly renamed Ratchaphruek Royal Park lays Songkran plans

From left, Suthas Pluempanya, the Director of the Institute of Research and Highland Development, Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai, President of Chiang Mai Provincial Culture Council, His Serene Highness Prince Bhisatej Rajani, the Chairman of the Royal Project Foundation, and Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant to announce the Ratchaphruek Royal Park’s upcoming Songkran celebration plans on March 18.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
Royal Flora Ratchaphruek, (Ratchaphruek Royal Park), will hold the Pee Mai Muang, the traditional Thai New Year, the cultural promotion.

His Serene Highness Prince Bhisatej Rajani, the Chairman of the Royal Project Foundation, Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai, president of Chiang Mai Provincial Culture Council, Amornphan Nimanant, Chiang Mai Governor, and Suthas Pluempanya, the Director of the Institute of Research and Highland Development were on hand March 18 to announce the park’s upcoming Songkran celebration plans.

His Serene Highness Prince Bhisatej as the special advisor to the Institute, and Principal Private Secretary to the Office of His Majesty the King, said His Majesty had renamed the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006 to the Ratchaphruek Royal Park on January 23, 2010.

The “Pee Mai Muang” cultural event will be organized in the park from April 12 to16, between 8.00 a.m. – 7.30 p.m., said Dr Chao Duangduen na Chiang Mai.

The New Year event will be held with a ceremony to recite the Maha Santingluang, the offering of prayers of the Lanna region by 99 Buddhist monks from wats in Chiang Mai in order to honor HM the King. Traditional New Year water pouring, in the traditional Lanna style will be held in a merit making ceremony and to honor the new namewill be held on April 12.

The opening day of the main event will be on April 12, and will be presided over by His Serene Highness Prince Bhisatej Rajani, the Chairman of the Royal Project Foundation. There will follow a parade of offerings, Songkran holy water contained in Salung Luang bowls, and all event goers will be asked to dress up traditional Lanna clothing. Shows and performances will also be featured.

During the four-day Songkran Thai New Year, from April 13-16, there will be parades in ancient styles, sand pagoda building, shows and performances and the life prolonging ceremony for the park.

Air Berlin launches code share with Bangkok Airways

Phitsanu Thepthong
30-year old Air Berlin is planning to introduce a new code sharing agreement with Bangkok Airways, starting from March 28, 2010 offering Chiang Mai residents and tourists a new option for flights to Europe according to Rungnapa Leechaianan, Head of Marketing & Sales Thailand for Air Berlin PLC & Co.

Simon Miller and Rungnapa Leechaianan of Air Berlin join the Air Berlin mascot in introducing the new code sharing agreement with Bangkok Air. The new arrangement will offer greater convenience for Chiang Mai residents and tourists.

She told Chiang Mai Mail that the new arrangement with Bangkok Airways would allow Air Berlin customers living in Chiang Mai the opportunity to book affordable tickets from Chiang Mai via Bangkok to many destinations, such as Berlin, Copenhagen, Cologne, Bonn, Dsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Helsinki, Karlsruhe, Munich, Nuremberg, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Vienna and Zurich.

“Passengers can now check in online and print out their boarding passes from their home computers,” she said.

Flights to Berlin will depart from Chiang Mai at 6.50 a.m. travelling via Bangkok, and arrive in Berlin in the evening. The daily flight will take about 11 hours, adding greater travel convenience to and from Europe for Chiang Mai, added Air Berlin’s Simon R. Miller, a senior marketing consultant who also met with the local 40 travel agent’s staff and representatives at the “Air Berlin Agent Seminar Summer 2010”, held at the Rati Lanna Riverside Spa and Resort hotel, in Chiang Mai on March 16.

“The new code sharing services with Bangkok Airways will make it more convenient for passengers here on the Chiang Mai- Bangkok-Berlin air route,” he noted.

“From Chiang Mai to Berlin, the capital of Germany, passengers can connect on to other European cities, countries and other tourist destinations. Passengers from Chiang Mai will also be able to enjoy the award-wining service of Air Berlin, one of the largest European airlines, and to discover Europe,” he said.

Simon told Chiang Mai Mail that Berlin, as the German capital city, is a perfect tourist destination with around 729 hotels and is famous for its shopping and cultural attractions.

“Last year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, remains of which have become a famous tourist destination. The new Berlin airport will be opened in October 2011 and will become a driving force in the German economy,” he remarked.

Air Berlin initially started offering charter flights and in 1991 upgraded to a full service airline. It is now the second largest airline in Germany and the 5th largest privately owned airline in Europe.

“Air Berlin is not a low cost air carrier or budget airline,” he stressed, “but offers full services for its passengers.”

Soy milk producer Vita Milk signs agreement with agriculture co-ops.

Thammasak Jittimaporn joins northern agriculture coop representatives in celebrating the latest contract agreement for soybean farmers.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew
Vita Milk, one of the largest soy milk producers in Thailand recently signed a contract with 7 Northern Agriculture Cooperatives to purchase high quality soybeans grown in the North. The contract ensures that Northern soybean farmers will be able to sell their product at reasonable prices.

Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Chumporn Saengmanee and Lerphong Musikaman, Deputy Director-General of the Cooperatives Extension Department joined Thammasak Jittimaporn, Managing Director of Green Sports Co. Ltd, the producer and distributor of Vita Milk at the contract signing ceremony.

Thammasak Jittimaporn said that Vita Milk has supported the domestic growth of high quality soybeans since 2005. He continued that the strain grown here has high protein and nutrition.

He said that Vita Milk has made contracts with more than 3,000 farmers through Northern Agriculture Co-ops and that Vita Milk was awarded the mark of Social Responsibility by the Ministry of Commerce for its arrangements that help promote local farmers self sustainability.

60 Earth Hour to switch electricity off

Nopniwat Krailerg
Chiang Mai will join the 60 Earth Hour project to shut down electricity for one hour to help reduce the global warming and increase awareness of global warming on March 27.

The opening ceremony of the global 60 Earth Hour project and switching off the power will be televised both nationwide 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., and in Chiang Mai, there will be activities to be organized in line with this campaign in front of Central Kad Suan Kaew shopping center on Huay Kaew Road.

The 60 Earth Hour project aims to increase awareness of global warming and its effects on society and bio resources, and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Earth Hour Campaign was first launched in 2007 by the WWF in Australia with the general public, government agencies, and private sector joining hands in switching off the power for one hour long so as to help save and use the energy efficiently.

This year, Bangkok and WWF Thailand will participate in Earth Hour 2010 along with Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Phuket, Pattaya, and Chonburi provinces.

Last year, 2.2 million people and 2,000 factory operators joined in to switch off the electricity, and reduced power usage by 10.2%.

In 2008 – 2009, the campaign and its activities were held worldwide, with more than 4,000 cities in 88 countries, and more than 10 million people joining in to switch off their electricity for one hour.

Thailand took part in this campaign in 2008, in cooperation with WWF Thailand. Bangkok and more than 40 governmental and private sector organizations joined in the previous campaign.

Abbot sprinkles holy water after King Kawila statue splashed with blood

Phra Kru Opas Panyakhun, the abbot of at Duppai temple, sprinkles water on military personnel at the statue of King Kawila after it had been splashed with human blood by red shirt protestors.

Supoj Thiamyoj
The 33rd Military Circle held a ceremony to pay respects offer forgiveness to the King Kawila statue at the front entrance to the 33rd Military Circle after Red shirt protestors led by Phra Kru Suthepsithikhun, the abbot of Wat Sriboonruang, poured human blood on it on March 16.

The abbot of Wat Sriboonruang, joined by red shirt members, poured blood on to the candles and incense sticks at the base of the statue in protest of the current government.

Colonel Krit Kitsuwan, the deputy commander of the 33rd Military Circle, organized the ceremony held on March 18, at 9.30 a.m. to bring back good fortune, good deeds and morality.

Col. Krit led 200 military officers, northern dignitaries, and area residents in the ceremony where Phra Kru Opas Panyakhun, the abbot of at Duppai temple, sprinkled water on all of those participating in the event. Then Lt. Col. Kittiwake Pramnanant, judge advocate of the Kawila Camp led the 3 soldiers who had been splashed with blood by the red shirts in plans to file a lawsuit against Phra Kru Suthepsithikhun at Phuping Police station.

Private Wasant Utatham, Sergeant Suphachai Phirak, and soldier Jetniphat Boontandee were admitted to the Kawila Camp Hospital for medical checks –ups after the event on the 12th.

CCTVs installed to monitor traffic violations

Chiang Mai Municipality Press Release
Authorities will monitor charge and fine those who violate road traffic law, with the help from CCTV, or closed circuit TV cameras. As the number of road accidents in Chiang Mai continues to rise due to reckless and drunk driving, CCTV cameras are being installed in order to enforce traffic laws in a bid to reduce accidents and increase careful driving habits.

Chiang Mai Municipality, along with Chiang Mai Provincial Police Division, have jointly launched the project to monitor, and charge those who violate the traffic rules and regulations.

With the upcoming Songkran holidays, the Municipality and Police hope that drivers will become more careful and obey safety and traffic regulations.

The opening ceremony to mark the launch of the CCTV campaign was held on March 18 at the training and traffic lights control center, near the Mengrai Municipal office on Prachasamphan Road, Chiang Mai.

Mae Hong Son reels under record haze

Khajohn Boonpath
Mae Hong Son has seen the number of patients affected by the record breaking pollution quadruple from the same time and similar hazy conditions last year according to Dr Adung Srirattanbul, Director of the Srisangwal Hospital in Mae Hong Son.

Between March 15 -18 more than 20 patients were admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay, Dr. Adung said, adding that two of those patients were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in critical condition due respiratory ailments.

Hospital personnel have been forced to use fans to try and clear the hospital of lingering smoke and haze visible in the corridors and affecting patients’ health.

On March 19, the Particulate Matter (PM 10) was measured at 433.7 microgram per cubic meter, while the Air Quality Index (AQI) was at 315.0. Mae Hong Son has seen the highest pollution levels out of all Northern provinces.

The Mae Hong Son Meteorological Station reported visibility at only one kilometer. The haze is expected to continue and doctors recommend that everyone wear face masks to protect themselves from the smoke and pollution.

17 killed in passenger bus accident in Myanmar

50 injured north of Mae Sai

According to Shan Thai news, 17 people were killed and more than 50 people injured when a 10 wheel truck careened down a hilly road into the back of a passenger bus just outside Ban Pang Kwai , about 10km from Kentung in Myanmar. The area lies just north of Chiang Rai, over the border.

The 10 wheel truck rammed into the back of the bus while traveling down a hill, the bus and truck both overturned. The driver of the truck was one of those killed at the scene. Brake failure in the truck carrying bags of cement is assumed to be the cause of the accident.

Most of the injured passengers were helped/ taken by villagers and authorities to Kengtung Hospital.

Deadly road accidents are very common inside Myanmar due to the poor state of the roads and the old, poorly maintained trucks.