HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Say No to violence against women

Guesthouses see growing signs of improvement

Lamyai prices higher this year as season begins

Thai-Myanmar JBC meets on Mae Sot-Myawaddy border closure

Burma election splits pro-democracy groups

Torrential rains cause flash flooding in Pai

Police suspected in selling illegal teak

New Army unit set up to protect border

Yabaa and Ya ice confiscated in drug arrests

Police investigating internet cafes for software piracy


Say No to violence against women

Supoj Thaimyoj

Rape and domestic abuse are among the most common forms of violent crime in Thailand. Across the globe, as many as one in two women experiences violence from an intimate partner and up to one in five experiences or is threatened with sexual assault. More than 80 per cent of trafficking victims are women.

Chulasing Wasantasing Chief of the Office of the Attorney General opened up the cone as part of a ceremony to pay respect to the portrait of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador for Thailand.

Accurate numbers are difficult to come by as most Thais consider it a private matter best kept behind closed doors and many police will not intervene in what is seen as a domestic dispute although Thailand passed a law making marital rape illegal in 2007.

Chiang Mai residents joined in the campaign to “Say No to Violence Against Women” on July 31, organized by the Attorney General’s Office, Region 5, and the Attorney General’s Office for Human Rights.

Soldiers carry the portrait of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador for Thailand as part of her campaign to stop violence against women.

The campaign was held to honor HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, who has been appointed as the goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), especially for the Thailand project on “Say No to Violence against Woman.”

This year, UNIFEM‘s project plans to organize around 100,000 activities throughout the nation, by November to mark the day against violence and to educate the public about laws protecting women and children from domestic abuse.

Starting from Three Kings Monument, women’s groups joined in a parade to Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Center’s Park where exhibitions on the rates of violence and laws protecting women and children against violence were on show. The AG’s office was also there to give consultative services to women.

Stage performances were also held in order to increase public awareness on the problems of violence in Thailand and to promote the campaign to say no to violence.

Marchers carry a banner in the parade to promote awareness of the problem
of violence against women in a bid to “say no to violence against women”.


Guesthouses see growing signs of improvement

Seminar brings together local businesses

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

Due to the political and economic crises in Thailand and abroad, around one quarter of guesthouses have been forced to close Paisal Surathamwit, advisor to the Chiang Mai Mayor. He added that while the local guesthouses had been severely affected the Ruenram Chiang Mai Club has indicated that the situation appears to be improving with the occupancy rate now hitting 40 percent. He said the situation had started to see improvement after the end of the World Cup.

Somsak Wongpanyathaworn of the Bank of Thailand, Northern Region Office was a guest speaker at the seminar held on July 23 at the Chiang Mai Municipality on the affects from global economic downturn and Thailand’s political crisis to the guesthouse and business operations in Chiang Mai.

The Chiang Mai Municipality hosted a workshop on effects of the global economic downturn and political crisis in Thailand on July 23, inviting 85 local guesthouse owners and operators. Somsak Wongpanyathaworn, from the Bank of Thailand and Arthapol Thaweesunthorn from the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai Office were guest speakers at the event which was intended to allow guesthouse operators understand the situation and seek solutions together.

There are around 300 guesthouses operating in the city, with more than 1,000 rooms but during the political crisis the occupancy rate was nearly zero and many were forced to shut down. Attendees at the seminar said funding from the government to them to help cover costs would be a good solution for the immediate problem.

Nikhom Traipitak, Acting Chairman of the Ruenraem (Guesthouses) Club, said that less than 20 percent visitors to Chiang Mai stay in guesthouses and they are almost always backpackers. He said that they hope the seminar will present their concerns and needs to the government so that they can forestall future problems but that the situation does seem to be slowly improving.

Lamyai prices higher this year as season begins

The ceremonial releasing of lamyai trucks to markets across
the country kicks off lamyai season in Chiang Mai.

Nopniwat Krailerg

On July 28, the Chiang Mai Provincial Authority along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives released a caravan of lamyai fruit loaded trucks on their way to domestic markets as part of the Chiang Mai Lamyai project management at Ban Kad in Mae Wang District.

Panit Charoenbun, Head of the Chiang Mai Provincial Agricultural Office reported that due to lower production of lamyai, prices are expected to be around 31 to 32 baht a kilogram or 27 baht a kilogram for a lower grade fruit.

“If there are really large numbers of lamyai, the price will be at 22 baht a kilo,” he said.

Production in Chiang Mai this year is about 152,346 tons of fruit from 315,331 rai of land.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives stepped up measures to promote processed lamyai fruit for domestic consumption in a bid to help lamyai growers,” he added.

5,600 tons of lamyai this year are being targeted for domestic consumption in the provinces.

Thai-Myanmar JBC meets on Mae Sot-Myawaddy border closure

The Thai-Myanmar Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) and delegations on Friday have met in Myawaddy of Myanmar to negotiate resolution of the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border closure and to boost bilateral relations.

Chairman Vasin Teeravechyan of the Thai-Myanmar Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) met with Myanmar officials to discuss the border closure at Mae Sot.

Chairman Vasin Teeravechyan of the Thai-Myanmar Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) led the Thai delegation to Myawaddy by crossing the Friendship Bridge to confer with Myanmar authorities about the continued border closure which has lasted for over two weeks.

Thai delegation included Thai ambassador to Myanmar Apirath Vienravi, senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and local authorities.

The authorities in the neighbouring country shut the border crossing at the bridge across the Moei River and about 20 cross-border trading ports along the river on July 12, which has brought trade and transport to a standstill.

Myanmar authorities closed the border claiming that a river embankment construction project on Thai side diverted the river currents which might erode the Myanmar side of the river after having no response from Thailand to its letter asking the Thai ambassador to Myanmar to discuss the issue.

However, Thailand halted the construction project. Prior to the meeting, Myanmar’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister U Maung Myint welcomed the visiting Thai delegation at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Friendship Bridge and talked with Mr Vasin and Thai officials.

U Maung Myint said that the meeting was on the basis of compromise, aiming to boost the relations between both countries.

Earlier Thai Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot and his team negotiated with Myanmar officials in Myawaddy for border reopening, saying that he expected the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border to reopen early next week.

Currently the results of the talks between Mr Alongkorn and the Myanmar government to reopen the border at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Bridge in Thailand’s Tak province have been submitted to Myanmar’s higher authorities for consideration. (MCOT)

Burma election splits pro-democracy groups

Banyar Kong Janoi, Rangoon, Burma

In one of Rangoon’s most popular tea houses, a group of men are having a heated discussion about the upcoming election. A breakaway group from Burma’s pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has confirmed it will contest the elections later this year. In the tea house, some are supporting the decision, while others believe it’s a betrayal of the democratic movement.

The National Democratic Force’s decision to run in the controversial elections has put it at odds with other supporters of the NLD. Traditional pro-democracy leaders, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, refused to register the NLD for the poll and as a result, the party was disbanded by the military authorities.

“Even if the opposition wins half the seats in parliament they won’t have a chance to change anything. In order to make any decisions, 75 percent of parliament members have to agree. Besides, 25 percent of the seats automatically go to members of the military and we don’t know how many seats the pro-junta party will get. So the election means nothing,” said Htaw Mon, a car broker in Rangoon.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party’s decision to boycott this year’s election is intended to send a strong message that the new constitution and the poll is a sham, says U Aung Thein, a member of the NLD’s central executive committee.

“The 2008 constitution was designed to entrench the military regime. It is also against democratic principles. What’s more, if we look at the right of ethnicities, this constitution seems like federalism. In fact it’s not because the presidents and prime ministers have to be members of the military. So it is very hard for ethnic people to get a high position such as prime minster. That’s why it is not democracy and why we cannot accept it,” said Thein.

The NLD is demanding the military government change the constitution and make the polls free and fair.

“We want to change the electoral laws. The constitution should be redrafted and a dialogue should be called among the political parties and ethnic groups for national reconciliation. The election commission should not be controlled by any political party. Now, as the election commission has to dance for the junta, how they can do their job freely? How can we take part in the election under these circumstances?” he asked.

The NLD’s decision not to re-register to contest this year’s election puts it at odds with some of its supporters, who have formed a break-away party called the National Democratic Force. U Khin Maung Swe is the leader of the party and agreed to a phone interview, saying it was too dangerous to meet in person.

“We know this is not going to be a fair election, but we have to move on from that. If we have legislature power we can make sure the government is accountable. If we just say ‘the election is not free or fair’ and boycott it, the military government will rule forever. According to the constitution, if no one challenges the military government they will win,” said Swe.

“Our Burmese people need change. That’s why we want to give them some hope in politics. The political crisis, which they have suffered under for many years, must be solved in the parliament. We need political reconciliation. We believe all democratic forces, ethnic leader and leaders of the military who hold 25 percent of parliamentary seats will help turn this country into a democracy in the future,” he said.

“We don’t believe our Burmese people can move to a liberal democracy, so we will have to go with a socialist-liberalist democracy with a market-oriented economy. We want to boost the economy to increase the number of middle-class people in the country,” said Swe.

While U Aung Thein from the NLD’s central executive committee says Burma will only change if an elected government runs the country, and that could take decades, perhaps the new generation holds more hope.

“We haven’t seen an election before. It is very exciting to cast our vote. It is good to know that we can choose our leader,” said high school student Mi Mow on the streets of Rangoon.

Note: This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a regional current affairs radio program produced by Indonesia’s independent radio news agency KBR68H and broadcast in local languages in 10 countries across Asia. www. In cooperation with the Faculty of Mass Communications at Chiang Mai University.

Torrential rains cause flash flooding in Pai

Minor earthquake

Pai saw flash flooding from torrential rains on Tuesday, July 27,
with roads being washed out and houses flooded.

Khajohn Boonpath

Pai in Mae Hong Son was hit by heavy rains and flash floods and a minor earthquake on Tuesday, July 27.

At 2:30 a.m. 10 homes in Mae Hee were damaged when the Huay Mae Hee River overran its banks after torrential rains. Livestock in Mae Hee and Ban Sai Kao were washed away in the torrent and 7 motorcycles were damaged. Two houses in Mae Hee were fully engulfed in water destroying everything inside.

After the flash flooding soldiers from the special forces of the 7th Infantry Division helped villagers clear up and the Pai Municipality brought in fire trucks to spray water to blast mud off of people’s homes.

Peerat Ruangsuksai, chief of the Meteorology Station in Mae Hong Son reported a minor earthquake of 2.4 on the Richter scale at 2:47 a.m. in Pai District. The July 27 quake was one of 17 minor aftershocks felt after a small earthquake on July 26 at 12:15 a.m.

Police suspected in selling illegal teak

By Khajohn Boonpath

Military and forestry officials seized more than 1,100 illegal teak logs at a road blockade in Tung Yao in Pai District, Mae Hong Son Province on July 29, 2010.

Preecha Sukkasem, from Pai District was caught with illegally harvested teak in Pai on July 29, 2010.

Officials stopped a Toyota truck driven by Preecha Sukkasem, from Pai District at Mae Ya on Highway 1095 and uncovered 1,196 illegally harvested logs of golden teak.

Preecha claimed that the wood on the truck belonged to a member of the Police Suppression Division and that he had been hired to smuggle the wood from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai by a police officer in the suppression division in Mae Hong Son. He added that this was the third such trip he had made from Mae Hong Son.

Military intelligence sources revealed that golden teak in Ban Huay Fak in Mae Hong Son was being held by a police captain who had hired Karen hill tribes to obtain the illegally harvested teak.

The Karen refugee camp at Ban Naisoy in Tambon Pang Moo was known to illegally harvest teak from the Huay Hok area near Ban Huay Fakin Mae Hong Son. The illegally harvested logs would be then transported to a wood factory in Ban Papu in Tambon Phabong in Muang district, Ma Hong Son. The source added that this had been going on for quite some time, and that one incident reported on July 24 involved forestry officials in Mae Sarieng who had intercepted a 6 wheel truck carrying processed golden teak wood products and, after the driver claimed that the wood belonged to a police corporal and produced documentation, the driver and the wood were released.

New Army unit set up to protect border

By Phitsanu Thepthong

Reliable sources in the Army reliable deny news reports that the new army unit being set up in the North was due to red shirt activity.

Military sources based here at the Infantry Division in the North told Chiang Mai Mail the long borders in the North and the largeness of the region, from Nakhon Sawan, Kampaeng Phet, Tak, Lampang, to Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and to Chiang Rai was the reason behind the need for a new unit.

“The new army unit has been proposed for a few years for border defense. The current number of military personnel is not enough to keep the border protected; we need to expand coverage in the region under the supervision of the 7th Infantry Division. It is not related to the red shirts at all,” the source told the Chiang Mai Mail.

On Saturday, July 24, the plan to establish a new army unit in the northern province of Chiang Mai was released and critics charged that it was intended to obstruct the activities of anti-government protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) loyal to fugitive ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

It has been reported that the Army chief ordered the 3rd Army region, responsible for security affairs in the North, to study the establishment at the 7th Infantry Division in Chiang Mai. Establishment of the unit will cost an estimated Bt10 billion over five years, starting in 2011.

The Thai government said the establishment of the new army unit at the 7th Infantry Division is aimed at protecting the borders and that because of the insufficiency of army force and personnel it will take 5-6 years to set up the new unit.

Government spokesmen said that the unit is not intended to block the red shirt people’s movements but to keep border peace and security in the areas supervised by the 3rd Army region.

Yabaa and Ya ice confiscated in drug arrests

Chiang Mai Mail Reporters

The Pha Muang Task Force confiscated 4,600 yabaa tablets and 3.6 kilograms of ya-ice in three separate incidents from the 23rd of July in Mae Ai, Mae Sai and Chai Prakarn.

On July 23, a police checkpoint uncovered Suthas Pongpratiyanon from Ban Chang in Rayong with 631 yabaa pills hidden in his mouth and under the driver’s seat. He said he had bought the drugs in Mae Ai with a plan to sell them in Rayong.

Mr. Arping Sae Lee, 35, a Chinese Haw from Mae Salong was arrested in Mae Sai with 3.6 kilograms of ya-ice hidden in four candy bags in his backpack.

The second incident occurred on July 28 when the Pha Muang Task Force and Mae Sai police uncovered ya-ice worth ten million baht on Mr. Arping Sae Lee, 35, a Chinese Haw from Tambon Mae Salong, with 3.6 kilograms of ya-ice hidden in four candy bags in his backpack. He told police that he had bought the drug from Mr. Arnai, (surname unknown) in Mae Sai market, Chiang Rai, to deliver to a dealer in Chiang Rai town.

July 29 saw the arrest of Ratkrai Saengmuangpiang, 34 and Mrs. Ladda Khamwong, 35vof Hangchat district and Mr. Nathapat Naiyana, 28, from Korkha district of Lampang Province with 3,970 yabaa tablets at a police checkpoint in Chai Prakarn.

A checkpoint at Ban Pha Hong in Tambon Sridongyen uncovered the pills hidden in two Heineken beer bottles in a backpack in the vehicle belong to the suspects. They confessed to police that they had travelled to Fang to purchase the drugs and were returning to Lampang to sell them.

Suspects in all three cases were being detained by police pending further investigation and charges.

Police investigating internet cafes for software piracy

280 PCs with 4.3 Million Baht worth of pirate software found in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Hat Yai and Nong Khai

Police officers with the Economic and Cyber Crime Division recently ramped up their efforts to stamp out software piracy at Internet Cafes in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Hat Yai and Nong Khai through the coordination of a nationwide measure to prevent the illegal and unauthorized use of software products.

In the first phase of the campaign police officers recovered pirated software worth 4.34 million baht at eight Internet cafes.

Each café, with an average of 35 PCs on site, was found using a variety of pirated software products. The owners of the cafés face business disruption, fines and possible jail terms.

“These cafes are relatively significant businesses, using large numbers of PCs loaded with unlicensed software to generate revenue and profits,” said Police Colonel Chainarong Charoenchainao, Spokesperson of the Economic and Cyber Crime division (ECD). “Like any other business, they are expected to adhere to Thai laws. Our investigation shows that these businesses have violated the Thai copyright act. As a result, they are now facing legal consequences.”

In other activity related to police enforcement of software intellectual property laws, Thai police arrested two computer retailers on suspicion of selling pirated software at the COMMART IT fair.

Thai police conducted patrols throughout the fair, identified two hardware dealers who voluntarily offered to preinstall unlicensed software onto the laptops they sold, and arrested them for suspected software piracy. These two dealers will face criminal prosecution.

“Using and selling of pirated software is a clear violation of the country’s copyright laws, and we are determined to remind businesses of the severity of the violation through enforcement” said Police Colonel Chainarong Charoenchainao. “There is an awareness of the risks associated with the sale of pirated software at COMMART. Similar investigations and arrests were made for software piracy in recent years at COMMART. We are seeing a reduction in the availability of pirated software, but clearly there is more work to do.”

Regarding recent reports of complaints by Internet Café owners about enforcement actions against pirated software at Internet café’s, Police Colonel Chainarong Charoenchainao said, “I am not familiar with the specifics of this situation, but from my understanding the owner of an internet café was charged with software piracy for having pirated software on a significant number of computers at his place of business. There is an ongoing investigation seeking information about this matter, so I cannot comment further. But I can say that when we conduct raids against Internet Cafés using pirated software, we follow a protocol in which the copyright owners are closely involved in the legal process and coming to an agreement for damages. ECD simply follows up on complaints about piracy lodged by copyright holders, and then collects evidence at Internet cafes for which search warrants have been obtained. We are not involved in the negotiation or settlement process.”

According to the copyright law of Thailand, executives of companies found using pirated software are subject to a fine of 800,000 baht, or a jail term of up to four years, or both.

Those who report the use of unlicensed software by calling 02-714-1010 or by reporting it online are eligible to receive an award of up to 250,000 Thai Baht. The identity of the caller is protected. More information is available online at (Vero PR)