Vol. IX No. 21 - Tuesday
May 25 - May 31, 2010



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Violence erupts in Chiang Mai

This Friday is Visakha Bucha Day

Get ready! Lhin Ping’s having a birthday party

Hill tribes students get improved dorms from Japanese government

Border pass closed after Thai Ranger shot

Thai Red Cross holds blood drives in Chiang Mai

State of Emergency in Chiang Mai

Vandalism mars Mae Hong Son

Arriving freshmen welcomed to CMU in decades old tradition

Tourist arrivals drop over 50% due to unrest

Chiang Mai Curfew

 

Violence erupts in Chiang Mai

A fire truck is set ablaze at Nawarat Bridge
by Red Shirt protestors on Wednesday May 19. (Photo Mick Jackson)

Chiang Mai Mail reporters

Violence erupted in Chiang Mai Wednesday May 19, after news of the crackdown on protestors in Bangkok spread to Chiang Mai with Red shirt protestors burning tires and blocking roads.

A protestor holds up a sign calling for United Nations help at the crackdown on protestors in Bangkok. (Photo by Supoj Thaimyoj)

Earlier in the week saw a buildup to the violence that broke out on Wednesday, when, on May 16, an Army bus parked at the Piak Alaiyont Car Garage on the Chiang Mai – Sankamphaeng Road, in Tambon Tha Sala was torched around 1:40 a.m. The owner of the garage did not see the arsonist but did hear a motorcycle and then a loud bang as the glass on the bus broke from the small bomb hurled inside.

On May 17, a small homemade bomb exploded at the Thai Military Bank on the Chiang Mai –Lamphun road in Nong Hoy and some kind of small bomb was thrown at the Siam Commercial Bank on Chotana Road, both events occurred around 2:00 a.m.

On Wednesday, about 1,000 Red shirts piled tires on Nawarat Bridge and set them alight, an annex of the Assistants Governor’s house was gutted by fire, phone booths were trashed, an electrical transformer near the Bridge was destroyed, the Bangkok Bank on Tha Phae Road was targeted with two ATM machines destroyed, two fire trucks from the San Pakoi fire brigade were set ablaze and fireworks and homemade bombs were thrown at City Hall in a rampage that ended with the Army and riot police moving in with shields, batons, and warning volleys fired into the air to scare the group off.

Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter, Supoj Thaimyoj, was punched in the back of the head by one of the Red shirt protestors and Siripong Wattanapaibool, and Seksarn Fukham of Lanna Thai News were threatened while covering the events at Nawarat Bridge.

Red shirts in San Pakoi burned tires at the Bangkok Bank branch there, later in the afternoon people burned tires near Tha Pae Gate, at the railways, and in front of the Region 5 Court in the evening.

Other Red shirt members held signs calling for U.N. assistance and denouncing the current government.

A curfew was instituted across the province from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Wednesday due to the escalating violence. However, during the night, around 30 motorcycles travelled to the Chiang Mai Construction Co, on Mahidol road, owned by the father in law of Newin Chidchob, and threw Molotov cocktails into the property, caretakers quickly doused the fire. The Bangkok Bank ATM at Chiang Mai gate was also destroyed during the night and further tire burning occurred in scattered locations around the city.

Thursday, May 20 saw the early closure of all Central properties, with Central Airport, Central Kad Suan Kaew, Robinson’s and Big C being ordered to close at 12:30 p.m. by the head office in Bangkok.

Authorities cleared Nawarat Bridge of the burnt out fire trucks and burnt tires; broken glass and debris were swept off the city streets as the City Government set to clearing up.

Provincial authorities removed the bunkers set up by members of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 at their base at the Grand Waroros Hotel and after negotiation with Worawut Rujanaphinant, alias DJ Daeng Songkwae, shut down operations of community radio station 92.50. About ten people stood by watching.

Chiang Mai was one of 24 provinces announced by the CRES to be under curfew until May 22, with curfew hours being 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The Provincial Special Task Force’s joint patrols of police and army patrolled the City every night on motorcycles for fast deployment in case further events occurred.

No deaths were reported from the events on Wednesday, May 19 in Chiang Mai.

Red shirt protestors face down Riot police at Nawarat Bridge
on Wednesday May 19. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

Red shirt protestors bring tire and debris to burn after blocking off Nawarat Bridge. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

An annex to the Assistant Governor’s Residence was torched by protestors
and gutted in the blaze. (Photo by Supoj Thaimyoj)

Soldiers rest in between action on Wednesday, May 19, as Chiang Mai city streets saw Red shirts erupt. (Photo by Mick Jackson)

Riot Police confront Red shirt protestors in full riot gear
on Nawarat Bridge on May 19. (Photo by Mick Jackson)

A protestor holds some kind of device in his hands in the attack near
the gate of the Governor’s Residence. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

The Chiang Mai skyline was black with smoke from burning tires at the intersection of Tha Pae road and Charoen Prathet road, near the Governor’s Residence.(Photo by Ron Lister)

Passersby cover their noses as they drive by burning tires near Tha Phae
Gate on the evening of Wednesday, May 19. (Photo by Hamilton Moore)

A military bus awaiting repairs was set alight and totally destroyed on May 16. Police assume it was Red shirt protestors but no culprit has been caught.
No one was injured in the blaze. (Photo by Supoj Thaimjoj)

The fire truck torched by protestors was completely destroyed in the blaze.
(Photo by Jedsadapong Wongkiew)

 

This Friday is Visakha Bucha Day

Banks and government offices to close

This Friday, May 28, is one of the most venerated holidays on the Buddhist calendar: Visakha Bucha Day. This Buddhist Holy Day marks the beginning of the Buddhist Era 2,548 years ago, and celebrates the miracle of the Buddha being born, reaching enlightenment and passing away and achieving final release from the circle of rebirth, all on the same date.

Crowds of worshippers perform the ‘wien thien’ ceremony around Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on Visakha Bucha Day last year.

Devout Buddhists will be participating in ceremonies at nearby temples, making merit in the morning by bringing alms to monks and listening to sermons. Later in the evening devotees will continue assembling at temples to conduct the “Wien Thien” ceremony, walking around sacred temple grounds three times holding candles, joss sticks and flowers honoring the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (the Buddhist Monastic Order).

Thousands of people are expected once again to participate in the annual procession from the city up to Doi Suthep, where they will then take part in traditional ceremonies.

For this holiday, killing any kind of animal and drinking alcohol or intoxicating substances is forbidden for 3 days. Wats are to be adorned with lanterns, flowers and joss sticks as symbols of worship, and skyrockets will be lit for three days to celebrate.

Banks and government offices are closed for this holiday. Although not mandatory, the government is asking that no alcohol be served on this day, and that all bars and entertainment venues close for 1 day. An unnamed police spokesman told Chiang Mai Mail that police will strictly enforce this “request”.


Get ready! Lhin Ping’s having a birthday party

Lhin Ping will celebrate her first birthday this weekend,
Chiang Mai Zoo makes party preparations.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

Chiang Mai has reason to celebrate on the 27th of May as the Chiang Mai Zoo announced plans to throw a gala Birthday party for Lhin Ping on her first birthday.

Sophon Damnui, the Director of the Zoological Park Organization said that the day will start with merit making and blessing at 8:09 a.m. and a warm up party at her beautifully decorated new house followed by a Chinese food feast and the presentation of birthday gifts.

There will be a big gathering onstage at 9 a.m. as the assembly, including some Zoo animals, joins in to wish Lhin Ping a happy birthday. Hopefully only the humans will join in the Happy Birthday Song!

There will be a Khantoke feast, the first at 11 a.m. and the second later in the afternoon at 2 p.m.

Lhin Ping Fan Club members are eligible for special packages; Package 1, at 1,000 baht, will allow guests to attend the blessing ceremony for Lhin Ping, enjoy the birthday cake, the Chinese feast, attend wildlife and nature studies, visit the snow dome, aquarium and attend musical, art and culture performances by Lanna artists.

Package 2, at 500 baht, will give the guest the opportunity to sing Happy Birthday to Lhin Ping, enjoy the Chinese feast, and attend musical, art and culture performances.

Baby Panda souvenirs will go on sale at the Zoo and the Lhin Ping Club Card will be launched which allows fan club members special privileges to visit Lhin Ping throughout the year. For more information, please contact by phone at 053 – 893170 and 086 – 7300755


Hill tribes students get improved dorms from Japanese government

The Government of Japan, under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects Scheme (GGP), has provided funds amounting to 1,500,000 baht for “A Project for Improving the Dormitory Environment of Hill Tribe Students in Chiang Mai Province”. On May 19, 2010, Mr. Masahide Sato, Consul of Japan in Chiang Mai and Ms. Bunnam Yamamoto, Director of the Dream Weaving for Peace Foundation, attended the opening ceremony at the dormitory of the Dream Weaving for Peace Foundation.

Mr. Masahide Sato, Consul of Japan in Chiang Mai is joined by Dream Weaving for Peace administrators in unveiling the new dining hall and library for their school on May 19.

Thailand has become very prosperous recently, but on the other hand, the income gap between urban and country people has widened. So, there is a tremendous gulf between general Thai people and hill tribe people. Since many underprivileged hill tribe children do not have the opportunity to receive a formal education, they are forced to accept lower paid jobs, and even risk being forced into the sex industry.

To solve the problem, the Dream Weaving for Peace Foundation, which is a local NGO in Samoeng District in Chiang Mai Province, has organized a dormitory and educational support project for disadvantaged hill tribe students who have been ill-treated, abandoned, or unprivileged. Students can stay in this dormitory at no expense. Besides studying, they learn handicrafts, agriculture, and dairy farming to promote an independent life. However, the dormitory was in such poor condition that the library and the dining area were dark and unsanitary. Therefore, building a new library and dining area had become an urgent matter.

In response to a request from the Dream Weaving for Peace Foundation, the Government of Japan provided funds for the construction of a library and a dining area in the dormitory. It is expected that the construction will improve learning conditions for hill tribe students and contribute to the improvement of the lives of rural people. For more information about GGP, please contact Mr.Sato, Consul, or Ms. Hoshii and Mr. Tsuda, Coordinators for GGP, Consulate-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, Airport Business Park, 90 Mahidol Road, T. Haiya, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50100. 053-203-367. (PR)


Border pass closed after Thai Ranger shot

Khajohn Boonpath

A military Ranger was shot dead near the Ban Mae Samlaeb checkpoint in Mae Hong Son on Wednesday, May 19 after an altercation with soldiers from Myanmar.

A long tailed boat carrying Forestry officials and Chainant Mongkale, the ranger under the supervision of the 3601 Military Ranger Company was called over to the Myanmar side of the river by soldiers from the Myanmar Army to transport two soldiers who had been killed by a landmine back to their base inside Myanmar. The Thai officials refused to go into Myanmar and a heated argument ensued. The Myanmar troops opened fire on Chainat as he returned to the boat.

The 36th Military Ranger Regiment in Mae Sarieng ordered the immediate closure of border day trade at the the Ban Mae Samlaeb Pass pending an explanation from Myanmar authorities.


Thai Red Cross holds blood drives in Chiang Mai

Supoj Thaimyoj and Jedsadapong Wongkiew

The Chiang Mai branch of the Thai Red Cross, led by its President, Mrs. Sunetra Nimanant, opened a blood drive at Central Airport Plaza on Wednesday, May 19 in cooperation with Robinson Department Store Chiang Mai and VC Spot Production.

Irish marathon runner, Derek Coogan, was one of the first to participate in the blood donation in his praise for Their Majesties the King and Queen, at Central Airport Plaza on Wednesday, May 19.

This is the 5th blood drive organized by the Provincial Red Cross, Chiang Mai chapter, in a bid to increase blood supplies for those in need of surgery and to fill shortages at blood banks. The event, held in honor of Their Majesties the King and Queen, was well attended with Irish marathon runner, Derek Coogan, adding in his praise for Their Majesties, saying they have done so much, he wanted to donate blood to help as well.

A nurse checks the blood pressure from a donor at the Chiang Mai Municipality meeting room on Thursday, May 20.

On May 20, the Chiang Mai Mayor, Tassanai Buranupakorn and the Chiang Mai Municipality held a blood drive at the Municipal meeting room, concerned that possible continued unrest might lead to blood shortages. Concerned that in addition to the regular use of blood by hospital in injuries, accidents and surgeries, any injuries due to the unrest could cause a strain on their supplies, the Mayor called for a separate blood drive.

The Thai Red Cross said that donating blood is a way to act charitably for the good of others.


State of Emergency in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant joins the commander of the 33rd Military Circle and the Commander of the Chiang Mai Provincial Police on Tuesday, May 18 to review the force as it passes by on motorcycles.

Supoj Thaimyoj

A caravan of motorcycles, trucks and tanks were released for use by the joint forces of Army, Police and civilians in patrolling city streets and check points, following the CRES announcement of State of Emergency in Chiang Mai.

On May 18, at 6: 00 p.m. Amornphan Nimanant, Chiang Mai Governor, joined the Commander of the 33rd Military Circle and the Commander of the Chiang Mai Provincial Police, to preside over the release of the unit into city streets.

Combining a military force of 240 soldiers, a police force of 200, and 100 civilians, Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan said that the patrol hoped to ensure the safety of the public until the situation returned to normal.

Government offices, Consulates, public facilities, infrastructure, and utilities, telephones, government media, bus stations, the railway station, airport and department stores were closely monitored.


Vandalism mars Mae Hong Son

By Khajohn Boonpath

Vandals used knives to slice the portrait of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva on billboards at the Thai Khem Kaeng (Strong Thai) project opposite Mae Hong Son’s provincial secondary school on Kunlum Prapas in Chongkham.

In April of 2010 a fire razed a portrait of HM the King near the Mae Hong Son Provincial Irrigation Office in Ban Mon Talaeng in Phabong.

Police could not determine the cause of the fire but suspect the two incidents are related.


Arriving freshmen welcomed to CMU in decades old tradition

Chiang Mai University freshmen students are greeted by cheering classmates
at the Nakhon Sawan Railways Station at the midway point of the overnight trip from Rangsit Train Station to Saraphi Station, Chiang Mai.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

As many as 450 first year students joined 400 senior students from Chiang Mai University on the train from Bangkok to be warmly welcomed to the school in a tradition that dates back to 1958.

On May 19-20, Chiang Mai University (CMU) brought the new students from Bangkok in13 train carriages specific for this purpose. Due to the situation in Bangkok the departure station was changed from Hua Lam Pong to Rangsit Train Station in Pathum Thani and the arrival station to Sarapee Station instead of Chiang Mai Train Station.

This has been a traditional event and activity for CMU’s Students Union and Faculty Student Clubs and Students Council to organize for many ten years, so as to make this more convenient for them to travel from Bangkok in the evening, and then arrive Chiang Mai in the morning, and then followed by the welcoming ceremony.

Assoc Prof Dr Amnart Yousuk, Vice president for Students Quality Development and Special Activities said this event has been held by CMU’s Student Union and Faculty Union since 1958, with a goal to creating close relationships among new students, senior students and their parents as they travel overnight from Bangkok.

CMU Alumni President for Bangkok presided over the opening ceremony at Rangsit Station, after which new students registered, enjoyed a welcoming ceremony and then boarded the 4 p.m. train to arrive around 8:30 a.m. During their overnight trip, the students enjoyed snacks and drinks and enjoyed this decades old transition tradition.


Tourist arrivals drop over 50% due to unrest

The current street violence linked with political unrest in Bangkok has driven away foreign tourists from visiting Thailand as arrivals have declined by over 50 per cent now, Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa said on Tuesday, May 18.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand tumbled after 19 foreign governments advised their citizens to not visit the kingdom due to political unrest, Mr Chumpol said.

Admitting that it is difficult for tour agencies to persuade tourists to visit Thailand as before, Mr Chumpol said foreigners thought that the unrest took place throughout the country, but in fact it occurred mainly in the capital.

The number of tourists passing through Suvarnabhumi Airport now is down to about 20,000 people daily, compared to over 30,000 before, he said.

Mr Chumpol said he would try to persuade more foreign tourists to visit Thailand as his ministry had earlier projected that about 15.5 million tourists would visit the country in 2010, but after the unrest, about 14.1 million foreign tourists are likely to arrive in Thailand this year, the same as 2009, he added. (TNA)


Chiang Mai Curfew

Quiet reigns over Chiang Mai city streets on the night of May 21, as this photo taken at 9 p.m.from near Airport junction shows. (Photo by Supoj Thaimyoj)



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