HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Strong winds hit Chiang Mai

Gold prices surging

Navy helps to bring turtles to Chiang Mai

U.S. sponsored program discusses democracy and the rule of law

Composting education for farmers to combat smoke haze

Ministry of Interior holds road show on rights of foreigners in Thailand

American detained by police on pedophilia charges

Deadline looms for Japan scholarships

Ancient Kings of Chiang Mai honored in ceremony near 3 Kings Monument

Lamphun installing CCTV in high risk areas


Strong winds hit Chiang Mai

Strong winds from the storm that struck Chiang Mai city on June 14 at 5:30 p.m. uprooted a large tree which fell on a nearby parked car near Wat Phra Singh Worawiharn, nobody was injured in this incident although one injury was reported due to the storm in other areas of the city.

By Supoj Thiamyoj

The storm that hit Chiang Mai on June 14 knocked out electric poles and street lights, causing blackouts over several areas of the city.

A storm that hit Chiang Mai city on June 14 at 5:30 pm. Knocked over billboards, trees and electric poles causing a blackout as well as property damage. Wualai road in Tambon Haiya was blocked when a giant tree was uprooted by the strong winds, another tree was knocked over in the area of Wat Phra Singh Worawiharn, and near Wat Nong Prakang three motorcycles were damaged, with one person was admitted to the hospital with injuries. 5 road accidents occurred around the city as a result of the storm.

Blackouts occurred in many parts of the city for several hours as crews worked to repair the lines knocked out by falling poles and trees. City crews cleared city streets of fallen trees and electric poles within a few hours of the storm.


Gold prices surging

Gold prices topped 19,000 baht per one baht weight on June 19.

Supoj Thaimyoj

The price of gold has been surging drastically and is expected to reach 20,000 baht for a one baht weight within 3 months.

Sert Tantiphanpipat, the owner of Saengsuwan Gold Shop in Waroros market said, “Today, June 19, the 96.5% gold (buy) is priced at 19,100 baht, while the gold (sell) is priced at 19,200 baht.”

He predicted that in the next 3-4 months it could go as high as 20,000 baht.

However, he noted that trade was still sluggish due to the negative impact from the recent political crises, he said, adding that most of customers bring in their gold for sale or exchange for one with more weight.

“As the gold price rises we expect to see an increasing number of clients bring in their gold for sale, he remarked.

Navy helps to bring turtles to Chiang Mai

Governor Amornphan Nimanant and Rear Admiral Chakchai Phuchareonyos enjoy the Turtle Festival at the Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium.

Supoj Thaimyoj

“Turtle Festival Episode”, the only turtle exhibition held in the North, opened at the Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium on June 5. The Royal Thai Navy’s Sea Turtle Conservation Centre and the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand organized the exhibit to honor HM the Queen’s efforts to conserve endangered turtle populations.

Chiang Mai Governor Amornphan Nimanant presided over the opening ceremony accompanied by Rear Admiral Chakchai Phucharoenyos, commander of the Air and Coastal Defense Command, Roj Thuwanalin, Chairman of the Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium, and Prayuth Nawacharoen, Deputy Director of the Zoological Park Organization and other guests of honor.

Roj Thuwanalin, Chairman of Chiang Zoo Aquarium said that the exhibition is held with the aim of exposing and educating Northerners to the amazing lives of turtles and the importance of preservation of this endangered species.

It will be a rare chance for northern Thais far from the Eastern Seaboard to learn about the important animals and give students a chance to earn valuable scholarships.

The exhibit will feature turtles in various stages of life, from newly hatched to adult. It also will showcase historical photographs about the role of the conservation center, which has been working to rebuild populations of Thailand’s four breeds of endangered turtles for 60 years.

More than 80 sea and fresh water turtles were brought to the Aquarium from Thailand and abroad. Many different turtles are featured, from the biggest in the world to Green Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles. An exhibition also educates people about the lives of these long lived creatures.

On August 10, Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium will display baby turtles, and 99 sharks born at the Aquarium as well as some turtles will be released back into the wild to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s 78th birthday and the 60th anniversary of the Sea Turtle Conservation Centre. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit took a deep and abiding interest in the plight of the sea turtles when, in 1979, she donated her island property to the Department of Fisheries to house the project.

Rear Adm. Chakchai Phucharoenyot, commander of the Air and Coastal Defense Command, said the Navy will also be offering 40,000 baht in scholarships to winners of a drawing competition and other activities. Winners will also travel to Sattahip on HM the Queen’s birthday on Aug. 12 to release juvenile turtles raised by the center back into the wild. For more information please call 038-431 477 or 02-466-1180. Tourists and visitors can view the exhibition at the Chiang Mai Zoo from now on until August 4, 9.00 a.m. - 5.30 p.m.

U.S. sponsored program discusses democracy and the rule of law

By Phitsanu Thepthong

The U.S. Consul General in Chiang Mai, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and Payap University’s Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace sponsored a speaker in the U.S. Speakers program on Democracy, Rule of law, and Conflict Resolution in Chiang Mai on June 16.

Dr. Larry Berman spoke on democracy, the rule of law and conflict resolution with local leaders at Payap University.

Dr. Larry Berman, spoke on these hot political issues at the university campuses in Chiang Mai, Phitsnaulok, Chiang Rai and Phayao. This program was a part of the United States’ effort to support and strengthen democracy in Thailand though the northern region.

Dr Berman, who currently teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of California-Davis, said that he was pleased to be back in Chiang Mai to lecture and then participate in round table discussions.

Dr. Berman visited Chiang Mai in June last year speaking on “ Political Transition and Roles of Opposition Parties”, which attracted a large audience from various sectors and organizations. He added that last year he had spoken with members of both the red shirt and yellow shirt groups as well as various political parties. Prior to coming up to Chiang Mai this year, Dr Berman gave a talk at UC Davis in May on “The Past has another pattern : Lessons learned and lost from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

He said politics has different meanings both in Thailand and abroad, as well as for the red shirts (UDD), and yellow shirts (PAD). “Thai politics is very interesting issue, there are differences on both sides.”

He noted that both sides feel the need to gain ‘political power’, adding that “in my own view, truth and trust is biggest challenge facing Thailand today. Compromise could be achieved with conversation and a willingness to concede.”

He remarked that the concept of democracy is sometime not perfect, adding that “Democracy is the only form of government that protects human rights.” He continued, “Democracy has different meanings; from free election, to free party, and free press. Both individual and groups in the society must use the ‘Rule of Law’ to help preserve democracy.”

He pointed out that while all humans are equal it is not always realized and it is the democratic government’s duty to use its abilities to serve its citizens. “People elect their own government by election, and then the government uses this power to the benefit of the country, a military coup cannot satisfy this requirement.”

In discussing conflict resolution, Dr. Berman said “the reconciliation plan needs to be discussed in a transparent manner that provides truth, trust, mercy and justice. As long as the Emergency Decree is still in force in Thailand, it is very difficult for talks on the reconciliation plan to move forward. Compromise is key.”

He added that all actors need to be brought to the table to hammer out the reconciliation plan, adding, “Individuals and institutions must also offer compromise in order to make the reconciliation plan work, the government alone cannot.”

He furthered that the reconciliation plan must follow a roadmap, and must abide by the law and the Constitution.

Dr Berman, who is also the Director of the UC Davis Washington Program suggested that the reconciliation plan must be developed with input from all sides so that it reflects everyone’s needs. Before the reconciliation plan can work, all parties must first reveal the truth to help relieve the political crisis, it will take time and effort to build peace.”

“Moreover,” he added, “ the reconciliation plan will allow for a democracy that can help reduce poverty, and educate people as to the democratic way and about human rights. “The government should promote the reconciliation plan through education and communication,” he concluded.

The United States Embassy’s U.S. Speakers programs brings American experts on a diverse range of issue to speak to and exchange views with a Thai audience, including government officials, students and media.

Composting education for farmers to combat smoke haze

One of the participants demonstrates methods of composting rice straw.

A workshop for farmers on composting methods was held recently by the Northern Science Park, lecturers of the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Agro Industry at Maejo University along with the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO) in a bid to lessen the annual effects of smoke haze caused by the burning of agricultural waste in farms and on fields.

Representatives from 210 local administrative organizations in Chiang Mai attended the workshop, so far 2,100 people have attended the course which is run by Assoc. Prof. Theerapong Sawangpanyangkoorn, Ajarn Ratchata Chuewiroj, Ajarn Dr. Chanawat Nithasanawijit and Ajarn Saenwasant Yodkham.

After the workshop it is hoped that these people will then help spread the knowledge they have gained to other farmers to reduce this problem. It is hoped that instead of burning farmers will compost the materials to produce fertilizer and lessen the smoke haze that chokes Chiang Mai yearly.

Ministry of Interior holds road show on rights of foreigners in Thailand

By Shana Kongmun

The Ministry of Interior came to Chiang Mai Grandview Hotel on Thursday, June 16, 2010 to answer a few questions and to determine what expatriate residents, consulates and the media feel are needed changes in some of the fundamentals of life for foreigners in Thailand.

Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior Kwanchai Wongnitkorn opened the session asking for people to contribute their ideas freely to the symposium.

Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior Kwanchai Wongnitkorn opened the event by remarking to the crowd that this was the second such conference, one had been held in Bangkok in February and another was planned for Songkhla. He told the gathered crowd that included Mrs. Junko Yakata, the Japanese Consul General, Ben Svasti Thomson, the British Honourary Consul, Chinese Consul General Zhu Weimin, and other representatives of consulates in Chiang Mai that they had been assigned by the Ministry of Interior to discuss ideas. He said the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva wanted the Ministry to see if the government has any room for improvement or anything it can extend to its expatriate residents to help promote investment and habitation rights.

The conferences are being held to collect information and suggestions that will be sent to a committee for refinement and then sent to the Cabinet for consideration. The goal, he said, “is to provide the best possible consistent system for everyone”.

He added, “they have to be plausible and feasible concepts that fall under the law, we can’t start everything new but we can come up with some reasonable propositions.”

The Director of the Foreign Affairs Division Tassana Vichaitanapat laid out the framework of the conference and the 5 major issues to be addressed; rights to nationality, immigration and habitation rights, right to work, investment rights and alien’s rights to property.

Director Tassana said, “We are trying to improve our legal framework. Part of our expectation is that we can develop frameworks about laws that foreigners can read.”

“The starting point,” he added, “is to hear your suggestions and recommendations. In our talks, we want to make sure that we will adhere to the law. We can think outside the box but our underlying focus is the legality of the propositions and that we understand our legal frameworks.”

The first issue of naturalization to Thai citizenship by foreigner was addressed by the Department of Provincial Administration representative. Foreigners must add themselves to the census registration (house registration, ie tabien ban). Holders of Permanent residency can get a blue book (Tor Ror 14) and holders of temporary visas can get on the yellow book (Tor Ror 13) before they can apply for naturalization. The Provincial Administration reiterated an important point, that foreigners have the right to be listed on the census registration, “It is not well known even among officials. We have contacted registration officials that you have this right and you should insist on it.”

The official discussed the inequalities facing Thai women married to foreigners stating that it is a cultural construct, “While we have equal rights under the Constitution, the law is different. Men are regarded as the head of the family in our culture, they need to be able to earn a living and support their wives.”

The requirements for naturalization were laid out, including the income requirements for both those married to Thais and those not married to Thais. The linguistics requirement has been reduced but the applicant must be able to sing the National and Royal anthems. Speaking and listening is mandatory but reading and writing is no longer required.

Application can be made to either the Special Branch Police department in Bangkok or the Provincial Police in the province the foreigner resides.

The official pointed out that if those people who naturalize as Thai citizens are found using the passport of their previous country the Thai citizenship will be revoked. Applicants must relinquish their previous nationality and the Ministry of Interior will report their cases to their embassies.

The next issue under discussion was Immigration and the right of habitation. Immigration officials discussed the various visas and how to obtain them as well as how to obtain Permanent Residency. The main issue of contention brought up by multiple Consul Generals, including Japanese Consul General Junko Yakata, was that of the 90 day reporting required of all foreigners on long stay visa extensions. Consul General Yakata told the officials that there are 3,000 Japanese nationals living in Northern Thailand. She requested a simplification of the process, perhaps by extending the length of time needed in between reports.

Chinese Consul General Zhu Weimin requested a change in the 90 day reporting procedure as well, citing the large numbers of Chinese students who attend Chiang Mai schools who cannot take time off from school to travel to Immigration to report. He suggested they open on the weekends for those who have jobs and classes.

The official justified the 90 day reporting by saying “it allows us the best possible protection. If someone goes missing then we have more recent information as to their whereabouts to give to the Embassy.”

The officials said they would consider amending the length of the report and might add reporting via the internet in the future.

Martin Venzky-Stalling of Chiang Mai University suggested they streamline their procedures to attract foreign investors. He recommended a business visa for those who come to conduct business in Thailand. He also suggested a form of a green card which contains both permanent residency and the right to work, and an extension for international students to stay on after they graduate to enable them to undertake internships or further job training.

The Labour Department was next, again citing the various regulations for work permits. Chris Hedges of the Chiang Mai Expats Club put forth a question that concerns many Chiang Mai residents; that of the definition of work and those retired expats who wish to volunteer to help in their new homes. The Labour Department official, while not refusing to put forth the idea to the committee stated, “Retirees are not here to work. Their visa is issued for one particular purpose and they have to adhere to that.”

Suggestions were put forth to amend this regulation as well as to implement a one stop service similar to that of Bangkok in Chiang Mai. The officials said that this would have to be approved by the Cabinet but that the suggestion would be put forth. Zhang Zhi Ren, Chinese Commercial Consul suggested that an accurate, updated website with different languages would be of great benefit as well as having officials who speak other languages.

Foreigners’ right to property was the final topic, with officials listing the requirements for owning and buying condos. Additionally, the spouse of a Thai person can inherit one rai of land for residential or commercial purposes or 10 rai of agricultural land if their Thai spouse dies. If the spouse held more than the requirement, then the foreign partner has one year to sell or to give away. Thai children can inherit from their parents, and foreign parents can buy land for their children if they are minors but must apply for a court ruling before purchasing.

Requests were made to make it easier for those living and working in Thailand to purchase a condo without having to bring money in from outside the country. Additionally, restrictions on condo ownership percentages were suggested to be relaxed.

The meeting concluded with Japanese Consul General Yakata saying,” We are encouraged that you come here to listen to our suggestions and we would like to know how they fare.”

Director Tassana ended by stating “We are here to take on your suggestions and to serve you to the best of our abilities. We will compile your questions and suggestions and submit them to a committee to see if we can address these issues.”

American detained by police on pedophilia charges

Saksit Meesubkwang and Nopniwat Krailerg

Acting on a phone tip-off that 72 year old Wilbert Willis Holley was bringing underage girls to his room, police arrested the American at his guest house on Loi Kroh.

Former U.S. Army soldier Wilbert Willis Holley is detained by Chiang Mai police and charged with sexual misconduct with a minor.

Investigative police staked out Mr. Holley’s room for two days to determine if he was bringing back girls under the age of 15 for sexual purposes. They observed him bringing a 10 year old girl to his room; investigation revealed that she was in Prathom 4 in a municipality school. The girl told police that Mr. Holley had brought her to his room many times.

Police obtained an arrest warrant and detained Mr. Holley on June 16 for further legal action. Mr. Holley denied all charges.

Deadline looms for Japan scholarships

In a recently released notice the Japanese government announced it will grant scholarships to Thai students who wish to further their study at universities in Japan for academic year 2011, as part of the “Undergraduate Student” and “Research Student” Programmes.

The Japan Information Service, the Embassy of Japan in Thailand will select and recommend approximately 10 candidates for the Undergraduate Student Programme and 50 candidates for the Research Student Programme to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbukagakusho:MEXT) in Japan for the final selection.

Application will be accepted from June 14-22, 2010 (Monday-Friday.) between 13:30-16:30 hours at the Japan Information Service, the Embassy of Japan, 177 Witthayu Road, Lumpini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330 and the Consulate-General of Japan, Chiang Mai, Unit 104 -107 Airport Business Park, 90 Mahidol Road, Chiang Mai 50100.

Applicants for the Undergraduate Students programme must have acquired more than 3.80 in cumulative average credits at upper secondary school. Applicants for the Research Students programme must have acquired more than 3.25 in cumulative average credits at university. Special consideration will be given in favor of those who hold the certificate of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and/ or the Examination for Japanese University.

Further information and application forms for the scholarships are available at the Japan Information Service, the Embassy of Japan (Tel. 02-207-8504. 02-696-3004 -Ms. Supatra Pothong and Ms. Junpraew Topoklang), the Consulate-General of Japan (Tel. 053-203-367 -Mr. Wanlop Saelee and Ms. Sahatsaya Charoensap), and at the Japanese Embassy’s homepage and the Consulate-General of Japan’s homepage

Ancient Kings of Chiang Mai honored in ceremony near 3 Kings Monument

Supoj Thaimyoj

A traditional dance ceremony was held to venerate the spirits and pay respects to past rulers and kings of Chiang Mai who had protected Chiang Mai city and its people by the Fine Arts Department of Chiang Mai University on June 12, 2010. Along with the Chiang Mai Arts and Culture Center, Chiang Mai University hopes that the traditional ceremony, held at the Center behind the Three Kings Monument, will become an annual tradition offering gratitude and honoring the memories of those rules who served Chiang Mai.

Candles and joss sticks are lit among offerings to the spirits of ancestors and past rulers of the Chiang Mai City in veneration ceremony

Chalermsak Suranant, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Chiang Mai office, accompanied by Assist Prof Dr Manop Manasam, the Deputy Dean of the Fine Arts Department and Assoc Prof Dr Woralan Boonyasurat, head of Thai Arts Department, CMU, presided over the ceremony.

This year was the first year the ceremony was held to preserve Lanna arts and cultures with the cooperation and support of both government and private organizations, as they wanted to promote awareness of the abilities of ancient rulers and kings of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai had two main royal dynasties; the Mengrai and the Chua Chao Jedton, who protected and advanced Lanna society.

Organizers hope that this event will promote an understanding of Thai history and culture to people and to mark the opening up of a ‘sacred place’ in city areas so that the public learns and appreciates the area.

Assist. Prof. Dr. Manop added that organizers hope the event will be held annually, with the first day of the event, on June 12, featuring the ceremony to honor Kings past and the second day a dance ceremony with mediums from Chiang Mai and Lamphun offering themselves to the spirits to ride was performed to venerate the spirits of the ancient Kings.

A photo exhibition on Chiang Mai history was also staged for visitors to view and learn about it.

Mediums from Chiang Mai perform the dance
to offer themselves as spirit horses for the ancient rulers.

Lamphun installing CCTV in high risk areas

The midnight market in Lamphun is the site
of the first CCTV system set up in Lamphun.

Nopniwat Krailerg

Lamphun began to install CCTV in high risk areas around the city in a bid to reduce crime in the city.

Prapas Phucharoen, Mayor of Lamphun Municipality said that the aim is to protect the quality of life of its residents and visitors by ensuring safety.

“The CCTV system will be installed in high - risk areas for road accidents, crimes, bus stations and other public transport depots used by tourists, travelers and residents, to ensure safety in Lamphun,” he added.

During the first phase of the installation, the CCTV system with two control panels will be installed at points covering the Nongdok fresh market, the midnight market and at the Queen Chammadhevi monument area.

Under the Mayor’s plan CCTV systems will eventually be set up to cover all municipal areas.