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Happy Birthday to HRH Princess Sirindhorn

Happy birthday to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on her birthday, April 2

The Chiang Mai Mail joins the Kingdom of Thailand in wishing Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn a very happy birthday on April 2. We join in with our most humble wishes for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for a long, healthy and happy life.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was born on April 2, 1955, the third child of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Chulalongkorn University, a first class honor, and a gold medal in History in 1976. She earned an M.A. in Oriental Epigraphy (Sanskrit and Cambodian) from Silpakorn University in 1978, and an M.A. in Pali and Sanskrit from Chulalongkorn University in 1980 and a doctoral degree in Developmental Education in 1987.
HRH the Princess has developed special interests in agricultural extension to improve school children’s nutritional conditions; supports education from pre-school to tertiary levels; and mother and child care. She has also concentrated on helping the handicapped, especially in using information technology (IT) to develop independent living and learning skills.
HRH the Princess has been Executive Vice President of the Thai Red Cross Society since 1977; Executive Chairman of the Chaipattana Foundation (in charge of His Majesty’s development and environmental preservation projects), Ananda Mahidol Foundation (to promote higher education), the King Rama II Foundation (to conserve and promote Thai Culture); President of the Sai Jai Thai Foundation (to support disabled veterans), Prince Mahidol Award Foundation (to award prizes annually to members of the international community for outstanding performances in the fields of medicine and public health); and Adviser of the Committee of Thai Junior Encyclopedia Project by Royal Command of H.M. the King.
 


Happy Birthday HRH Princess Ubolratana

The Chiang Mai Mail humbly joins the Kingdom of Thailand in wishing Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana a most happy birthday on April 5.
Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Phannavadi was born on April 5, 1951, in Lausanne Switzerland. She is the eldest child of Their Majesties the King and Queen.
HRH Princess Ubolratana is a very devoted leader of young people in the campaign against drugs, and as such has instituted and keenly watches over the To Be Number One project, encouraging family values, music and sport as alternatives to drug use. She has also set up the Khun Poom project to assist autistic children in Thailand.
In 2008, HRH Princess Ubolratana played the main role in the Thai film Where The Miracle Happens. She has been an active supporter of the Thai film industry for many years promoting Thailand as a destination for filming, production and post-production.
HRH Princess Ubolratana has also shown a keen interest in the way Thailand is being promoted by the TAT, and regularly attends the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin.
Two years ago, Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana graciously donated two million baht in cash and a number of blankets to aid disaster victims of a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.


HRH Princess Ubolratana presides over Bangkok Airways 45th anniversary in Berlin

HRH Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Siri Vadhana Phannavadi presided over Bangkok Airways’ 45th Anniversary Celebration at the fairground of Internationale Tourismus Boerse 2013 (ITB) held in Berlin, Germany. The princess’s presence was received by Bangkok Airways’ President - Capt. Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth (2nd right) together with Mr. Peter Wiesner Senior Vice President – Network Management, M.L. Nandhika Varavarn, Vice President - Corporate Communications and Khun Ariya Prasarttong-Osoth, Vice President – Sales, and executives from Sales Department. The celebration was also joined by Mr. Sorajak Kasemsuvan, President of Thai Airways International and Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni, Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).


Chakri Day is April 6

Chakri Memorial Day falls on Saturday, April 6 this year. As it falls on a weekend, Monday April 8 will be the substitute public holiday. Government offices and some businesses will be closed. Chakri Day commemorates the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty and the founding of Bangkok by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke in 1782.


Elephants celebrate their National Day

70 elephants gather to feast on National Elephant Day, a week after the Prime Minister agreed to outlaw the ivory trade in Thailand.

Nopniwat Krailerg
In a day made special for Thai elephants by the fact that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra recently agreed to ban the trade of ivory, elephants celebrated National Elephant Day with a great feast at the Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim on March 13, 2013.
More than 70 elephants took part in the 14th annual National Elephant Day feast that saw Chiang Mai Governor Tanin Subhasaen visit with honored guests U.S. Consul General Kenneth L. Foster, Chinese Consul General Zhang Weicai and Choochart Kalmapichit, President of the Maesa Elephant Camp in festivities.
The elephants feasted together upon their favorite foods such as bananas, sugarcane, pineapple and watermelon in this massive feast.
On May 26, 1998 the Thai Cabinet approved the designation of March 13 as Thai Elephant Day to raise and sustain public awareness of the importance of elephants. Elephants are recognized as the national animal of Thailand. National Elephant Day is an occasion when people show their love for elephants and many of the elephant parks hold special events where visitors can look after the animals and help with the feeding.
Previously it had been legal for ivory taken from elephants in Thailand to be bought and sold within Thailand but on March 4, 2013 Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced that her administration would take crucial steps to ban the trading of ivory in Thailand.


Local charity wins 2nd Best NGO in the North

In an awards ceremony at the Gateway Hotel in Phayao on March 7th, 2013 Operation Blessing Foundation (Thai) received second place honors as best non-government organization (NGO) in the northern provinces. The annual awards are presented by the League of Foundations Under the Royal Patronage of H.M. the King. The League of Foundations oversees all registered Thai foundations—about 26,000—to ensure that they act with excellence and integrity, and fulfill their stated missions under Thai law. The first place winner in the north was the Destiny Rescue Foundation which works in the area of trafficking; third place went to the Operation Blessing Chiang Rai Foundation which operates children’s shelters.


Safety bicycle lanes announced

Bicycle safety lanes will be marked around the city in major tourist areas.

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Chiang Mai Municipality and the Traffic and Tourist Police announced the launch of the project “Safety Zones” which will offer 8 major bicycle routes in tourist areas with signs in Thai, English and Chinese.
Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn noted, at the launch on March 14, 2013, that the growing numbers of Chinese tourists visiting Chiang Mai tend to use bicycles and the bicycle lanes need to be marked and enforced so as to reduce traffic and increase the safety of riders.
It was noted that the lane on Loi Kroh Road often used by motorbikes to go against the one way direction is, in fact, strictly for bicycles and that motorcycles should not be using that lane for going the wrong way. Additional bicycle routes will be marked in 7 other major tourist roads including Tha Pae and Ratchadamnoen.


Chiang Mai signs agreement with Hokkaido

Chiang Mai Governor Tanin Subhasaen signed a cooperation agreement with the Governor of Hokkaido, Japan on a recent trip to Japan. Thai Ambassador to Japan Thanatip Upatising and Thongchai Srimada of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TECB) Boonlert Buranupakorn President of Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) and Dr. Sarawut Srisakul the President of Pinkanakorn Development Agency (Public Organization) were on hand for the signing ceremony. The agreement will strengthen ties between Thailand and Japan and will be the starting point in creating and developing cooperation in trade, tourism and education between Chiang Mai and Hokkaido.


New Tourist Office opens

Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn was on hand for the opening ceremony of the new Tourist Office on the west side of Nawarat Bridge.

Chiang Mai Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn held the opening ceremony for the new Tourist Information Center from the Chiang Mai Municipality on West Nawarat Bridge on March 14, 2013. The Tourist Information Center will be staffed by Municipal staff as well as by Tourist Police to assist travelers and tourists to Chiang Mai.
The location on the west side of Nawarat Bridge opened fully, the Mayor announced. “It is now 100% ready for service.”
The center will also offer OTOP products from Chiang Mai province for sale in a display room along with advice, information, maps and more.


Fest of the Five Regions

The Fest of the Five Regions of Thailand is being held this weekend at Chiang Mai Central Airport’s Central Hall and features a travel fair promoting the five main regions of Thailand; North Eastern or Isaan, North, Central, Eastern and Southern. A press conference was held on Monday, March 18 to announce the Fest will be hosted in Chiang Mai March 22-24. The fest travels Thailand and visited Udon Thani in February, will head to Rayong in May, Hat Yai in July and Cha-Am in September. The Fest will see vendors from around the country with special promotions, as well as products and food.


Open Lanna to the World…

Nopniwat Krailerg
The hit TV shows Lanna World and Lanna: Miracles and More will come to Chiang Mai’s Prasert Land on April 4-7, 2013. This borderless festival of creativity and culture will feature the best of Lanna handicrafts, world musiq, food and fun. Produced by Todd “Tongdee” Lavelle, he said, “The essence of Lanna is molded like clay into myriad forms and mixed with colors from throughout Thailand and Planet Earth to create a rainbow of possibility. Our audience-each festival-goer (it’s FREE!) takes part in interactive performances, offers their ideas on the creative process and then sits back to enjoy great Singha products and Lanna World Culture.”
Each night will start with local Lanna World Play offs, where young musicians and performers will play the music of Lanna in both old and new ways, mixing it with rock, blues, jazz and funk. Then there will be feature shows celebrating the provinces of the North: Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Mae Hong Son followed by international performances from Korea, India, the USA and more. There will be concerts by well known names in Thailand such as Luang Kai (Southern Thailand), EedBonglang-Sa-On (ISAN or Northeast Thailand), TikShiro and others who share their skill with local drummers, dancers and singers from each province.


One Tablet per Child (OTPC) Learning Application Contest

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Office of the Basic Education Commission held a workshop on creating learning applications for tablets for students of grade 1. Attended by teachers and educational personnel, Dr. Benjaluck Namfah, Vice Secretary General, announced a contest to create a learning app for Android tablets for students in Grade 1 at the meeting held at the Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel on March 13, 2013.
Digital media education is increasing with the implementation of the government’s one tablet one child policy and the contest will cover students in Level 1 (Grade 1-3) and Level 3 (Grade 7-9). The Office of Basic Education has been working to provide teacher training to 1,000 people covering 5 regions including Bangkok, Surat Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Mahasarakham and Chiang Mai. The training will include the application form for the course (Learning Media) Application form for teaching (Instruction Media) and knowledge application (Construction Media).


Chiang Mai prepares to host ICSA international conference

Southeast Asian Weather and Climate

The annual ICSA conference on South East Asian weather and climate change will be held at Le Meridien in November.

Nopniwat Krailerg
The International Conference on Southeast Asian Weather and Climate 2013 (ICSA 2013) will be held in Chiang Mai at Le Meridien Hotel on November 27-29, 2013. The annual conference is held by the Thai government and private organizations such as the Green Tree Foundation Chiang Mai Rajabhat University, National Museum of Scientific Organization. (NSM), the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST), Royal Rain Making and Agricultural Aviation and Northern Meteorological Center, the conference and will see attendees from across South East Asia, China and Australia.
The conference will see specialists in the environment and climate change from around the world with more than 1,000 attendees expected to come. Discussions will range from the science of climate change, natural disasters, agriculture and food security.
The conference will involve case studies from Chiang Mai province and seek ways to solve problems that arise such as the annual smog and haze, flooding, agricultural crises, and health problems. Included will be the introduction of traditional knowledge used in problem solving and to forecast weather.


Two students dead in school bus accident in Chom Thong

One Highways Department worker was killed and three others injured when the truck transporting them slammed into the back of this pickup truck.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Two students aged 12 and 14 were killed instantly when the school van they were riding in went out of control and slammed into a parked six wheel truck and overturned on Monday, March 11 at 4:40 p.m. The van had picked up the students from school and was returning along the Chiang Mai – Hod Road in Chom Thong when the accident occurred. 9 students were injured in the crash.
A second fatal accident occurred a week later on Monday, March 18 at 8:30 in the morning when a truck transporting workers from the Department of Highways slammed into the back of a pickup truck on the Superhighway at the Chiang Mai – Lampang Road. The truck was carrying workers to trim trees on the roadside when the truck, travelling at high speed, swerved to avoid a car parked on the side of the road after a breakdown and hit the back of a pickup truck.
One worker was killed Panae Saoyen, age 61 and 3 others were injured in the accident.


Two Hmong men killed in gunfight with police

Police seize 1 billion baht of Yaba

Four men were arrested and two killed after a police checkpoint stop ended in a gunfight. Drugs valued at over 1 billion baht were found hidden in the truck.

Nopniwat Krailerg
The Chiang Rai Provincial Police and officers from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau were attempting to arrest drug traffickers along a route through Chiang Rai’s Baan Chiang Kiean, in Thoeng District when a gunfight ensued, killing two of the drug traffickers.
The police had received a tip off that traffickers were using this route and went to investigate on Sunday, March 10, 2013. Two men in a truck fired upon the police and Tawee Techalertwattan and Captan Wadeesukasem of Tak were killed in the ensuing gun battle with police.
Four other men were arrested at the time, Harn Chareonwattana who was driving a truck used to vacuum out septic tanks, Chakkapong Charoenchaidej, passengers in the pickup truck and Yongyut Petsakulprai who was driving a large motorcycle in lead of the two vehicles.
Police uncovered 2 million methamphetamine pills concealed inside the truck and 50 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine. Police stated the street value of the seized drugs is over 1 billion baht.
In an earlier incident in Chiang Mai, on March 8, 2013 the Border Patrol Police killed three men after a gun battle ensued in Chiang Dao. The three men resisted arrest during a raid on a house at Baan Nong Keaw Road in Muang Na sub district. The officers found the three men dead, with 3 AK-47s and more than 9 million baht in cash in 3 backpacks.
Police believe the three men worked for a drug trafficking gang and were planning on using the money to buy drugs at the Myanmar border in Chiang Dao when they were discovered by police.


Suspicious bag found near U.S. Consulate

Bomb squad finds only clothes

Bomb squad technicians from the Chiang Mai Police investigate a suspicious bag found on the banks of the river opposite the U.S. Consulate General.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Heightened security at the U.S. Consulate after the government announced a potential threat from Al Qaeda resulted in the bomb squad being called out for a bag found on the banks of the Ping River across from the U.S. Consulate on March 10, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
Police closed off Wichayanon Road temporarily while the bomb squad dealt with the unknown bag. A high pressure water gun revealed that the bag contained only some women’s clothes and cosmetics. Police believe that visitors to the scenic spot forgot the bag but they will view the CCTV cameras installed in the area to ensure that it wasn’t someone trying to create chaos.
The U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai was identified as a possible source of Al Qaeda trouble in mid-February and Chiang Mai police set up a guard post and police guards 24/7 to prevent any serious incident from occurring.


Driver arrested in bank delivery heist

9.2 million baht stolen from delivery van

Nopniwat Krailerg
9.2 million baht was stolen from a Krung Thai Bank delivery van on March 6, 2013 at 9 a.m. in Mae Rim. The driver of that van along with another driver and an employee were arrested for involvement in the crime.
On March 6 the driver and guard of the delivery vehicle for the Krung Thai Business Services parked the van in a lot and went for breakfast, they claimed that while they were gone someone broke into the van and stole 3 bags of cash.
Police found the driver of the van to be behaving suspiciously and arrested Sudpreecha Thongphan age 46 head of money transportation control and Chatpong Yuttayan age 36, the van driver. Investigation revealed that another person was suspected to be involved as CCTV and witnesses reported a black Honda City at the scene of the crime.
Police uncovered the vehicle and found that Sumek Lertpanupat, a driver for the company, had borrowed the car from his girlfriend that day. Police issued an arrest warrant and searched his house in Mae Wang where they uncovered most of the money, some had been spent already.
Sumek pled guilty to the theft and said he knew that money was being transported that day and that the driver and guard on that route were known to be lax. He said that he stole the money because he was fed up with the bank but police believe he did not act alone and that the two men arrested early in the investigation are involved in the crime. Police continue to gather evidence and hope to prosecute the other two men for the theft.


Lampang police uncover nearly 400,000 Yaba tablets

5 kg of crystal meth

Police uncovered nearly 400,000 Yaba tablets and 5kg of Ya ice hidden in the bed and undercarriage of this Mitsubishi truck.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Lampang Police arrested two men at a police checkpoint on March 16, 2013 and uncovered 197 packages of Yaba and 5 kg of Ya Ice hidden in the panels of the truck. The police stopped the vehicle on the Sop Prap – Sernm Ngam Road just after the bridge over the Wang River when the driver displayed suspicious behavior.
An investigation found that the bed and undercarriage of the truck had been modified to hide drugs. The police uncovered 394,000 methamphetamine tablets and 5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine hidden in compartments in the body of the truck.
The two men, Sittidej Siwalee age 28 from Pai, Mae Hong Son and Sitthikorn Saelee age 30 from Phrao, Chiang Mai were arrested and confessed to police that they had been hired to pick up the drugs from near the border in Chiang Mai and deliver to them to dealers in Bangkok.


Nimmanhaemin one way soi system scrapped

Residents of the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood met with Traffic Police on Wednesday to learn that the two month one way trial for the sois of Nimmanhaemin would be scrapped and the two system would be implemented on April 1, 2013.

Shana Kongmun
Police met with concerned Nimmanhaemin citizens on Wednesday, March 27 at the Anuban Suan on Nimmanhaemin soi 17 to discuss the one way soi system implemented in February. Residents expressed their concerns regarding the one way system which saw each soi becoming one way in alternating directions starting at soi 5 and ending at soi 15, noting that it had increased traffic on the central soi that runs parallel to Nimmanhaemin as well as on Sirimangkalajarn.
Another issue raised by the members of the Nimman Club (found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NimmanClub) was that the one way soi system had increased speeds along the sois as drivers were no longer slowed down by traffic, resulting in several accidents. Other accidents were caused by people either not seeing the do not enter signs or not paying attention to the one way signs and going the wrong way down the one way system. One Nimman resident pointed out that the large signs erected by the police were not standard and did not look like one way or do not enter signs but rather like large advertisements.
Additionally, residents noted that problems tended to occur after 9 p.m. when people started flocking to area bars, restaurants and clubs resulting in faster driving and more accidents. The group suggested that if the police intended on keeping the one way system that speed bumps be installed along the sois to slow people down.
The traffic police acknowledged these issues and announced that on March 31the one way system would be scrapped and the two way system implemented on April 1. They vowed to enforce the even/odd parking on the sois so that they would remain clear to traffic. Parking is a major issue on the Nimmanhaemin sois, with several residents complaining loudly that parking was not enforced and offenders continued to block people’s driveways and entrances. One householder said that he put potted plants in front of his driveway to stop people from parking there and they just moved the plants.
The police addressed this issue saying that resources were limited but that they would patrol the sois and enforce parking. Residents volunteered to assist by photographing offenders cars. Other residents offered up suggestions for parking issues including the Municipality offering public parking or police issuing stickers for residents of the neighborhood. It was pointed out that all the Nimmanhaemin sois suffer this problem, even the dead end ones like Soi 1 and Soi 2 where the entrance is blocked by parked cars. One member asked police to please enforce the even/odd parking for motorbikes too, noting that they parked anywhere and blocked the road.
Police vowed to enforce the parking regulations and asked for people’s cooperation in following the signs and not blocking the sois.


Municipality asks city residents for cooperation in tackling the smoke

Shana Kongmun
Chiang Mai Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn asked Chiang Mai city residents to do their part in helping to cope with the smoke that has settled heavily on Chiang Mai in the past weeks, noting that PM10 levels or particulate matter over 10 microns has been registering in the unsafe levels at the monitoring stations at City Hall and Yupparaj Witthalayu School. Although the smoke is coming from outside, he noted that residents may be able to help raise humidity levels in the city by spraying water around their houses and on the roads in front which would help in bringing down dust levels. Additionally, he asked that at risk residents stay at home and that everyone wear a mask when going outside. The city has been distributing masks and spraying water in the air in an attempt to dampen down some of the pollution.
One concerned resident, Ricky Ward has suggested that the authorities consider evacuating all school age children, adding that the poorer residents have no way of leaving during these levels of high pollution.
According the United States EPA site particulate matter is the term for solid or liquid particles found in the air. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke. Others are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. PM 10 is the particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or less in size, because of their small size they are more dangerous because they can penetrate the deepest part of the lungs.
You can read the daily average PM10 readings at http://aqmthai.com/.


Mini-concert to announce upcoming Lanna World Festival

Todd Thongdee took to the stage at Tha Pae Gate on Wednesday to announce the upcoming Lanna World Festival and to introduce the popular singer Lanna Commins.

Shana Kongmun
A mini-concert featuring Chiang Mai favorite Lanna Commins was held on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at Tha Pae Gate as a precursor to the upcoming Lanna World Festival that will be held at Prasertland on Nimmanhaemin soi 6 from April 4-7, 2013.
The Lanna World Festival is the brainchild of long time resident and TV personality Todd Thongdee and will offer performances from not only Northern musicians such as Maehongson World, Chang Saton Lanna World Funk, The Smooth and Himmapan but also World Music singers such as Cameroon’s Corry Denguemo, often called the “Voice of Cameroon”. Other performers include the New Orleans Gumbo Brothers, Bamako Express,Indus Joy from India, and Tik Shiro and Musiq and many others.
Performances begin at 6 PM every night with Lanna World opening the event on April 4 followed by Corry Denguemo at 8 p.m. The festival ends on April 7 and is free to the public.


Japanese government assists villagers with alternative energy sources

The Government of Japan, under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects Scheme (GGP), has provided funds amounting to 3,582,000 baht for a project entitled “Promoting Alternative Energy, Growing Organic Produce and Environmental Conservation for a Sustainable Community”. On March 21, 2013, Mr. Kazuo Shibata, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, Mr. Setthakit Sakyakul, Assistance District Chief Officer of Jae Hom District and Dr. Pattama Sirithunya, professor of the Faculty of Science and Agricultural Technology of Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, were present at the project closing ceremony at the agricultural practice center in Thung Hang Village.
Thung Hang Village in Lampang Province with a population of 698, is 100 km north of Lampang city. Its main activity is agriculture, and long-term use of fertilizers and pesticides has caused soil deterioration and water pollution. Moreover, the effects of climate change have been remarkable. In October 2011, extreme weather consistent with global warming caused massive flooding which inflicted unprecedented damage on the lives of Thai citizens all over the country. Although the Thai government urges the public not to burn fields and promotes recycling garbage to reduce carbon dioxide, its recommendations are still widely ignored.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to change the lifestyle of residents to solve the environmental problems and live in coexistence with nature. Although, residents have shown interest in organic farming which can avoid the cost of fertilizers and pesticides, and in the utilization of alternate energy, which can improve their income, they haven’t yet adopted these measures, because of lack of knowledge and funds. To address this situation, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna plans to carry out training in organic agriculture and alternate energy use for local residents, in order to increase awareness and encourage them to protect the environment. The aim is to empower them to realize both a reduction in the effects on the environment and to achieve sustainable community development.
In response to a request from Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, the Government of Japan bore the costs of training, and of purchasing equipment for a photovoltaic unit, a biodiesel and bioethanol producing machine, and a biomass generation unit for promoting organic agriculture and utilizating alternative energy. It is expected that this will help to develop a low-carbon society, and create a vibrant local community.
The Japanese government intends to continue supporting projects which contribute to environmental protection activities at local residents’ level through its Grant Assistance for Human Security Projects scheme (GGP). For more information, please contact the Consulate-General of Japan in Chiang Mai
Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects Scheme (GGP) or if interested in applying for aid. 053-203-367 / Fax: 053-203-373. [email protected]


Art as a form of protest in Burma

Burma protest art is starting to see the light of day in Myanmar.

By Helen Regan, Rangoon, Burma

“They stripped the mountain of her clothes and people protecting her are put in prison,” says Burmese political artist Myint Soe.
As Burma’s old censorship laws are being relaxed, protest groups are using art to spread their message – and exhibitions are now showing political art openly. Myint Soe’s exhibition is being used to raise funds for protests against a controversial copper mine, jointly owned by the Chinese in the northern part of the country.
“I am attached to politics. In my paintings, you can see my paintings are political,” he says, “My style depends on the political and economic situation.”
Before, paintings like his would have been banned from being displayed. The censors would come and check for anything offensive. Though censorship is supposed to have been relaxed, galleries still have to go through the process”, says Aung Min Soe, owner of Pansodan Gallery.
“This year is a very relaxed. In reality they still check what you are doing, how the exhibition goes. And we still have to submit to apply to the censorship board to come to the gallery. These routines are still continuing,” he says.
But now exhibitions purely dedicated to showing political events are pushing the boundaries.
“In the copper mine case, I tried to depict the need under the reality,” explains Myint Soe, “If all is gone, in this area, there will be bloodshed. We are burning inside.”
People that live around the Latpadaung copper mine say they are being forced from their land. Recently, the protests turned violent when police cracked down on protesters.
“Mountains are normally still but I wanted to paint with movement to reflect the turmoil of the situation,” says the artist, “Even though they said politics is allowed, in reality one night before the Latpadaung exhibition, they came to ban the exhibition.”
But the authorities didn’t manage to shut Myint Soe’s exhibition down.There is a lot of confusion now as to what is, and isn’t, allowed, says gallery owner Aung Min Soe.
“They don’t inform us officially. So this is also a problem – we are still confused,” he says, “Shall we inform them? Or do we still need to get the censorship board to come and check everything. There may not be total freedom of expression yet, but there is a larger platform emerging, and the artists will carry one what they’ve always been doing. When I make a drawing I don’t think about censorship, I just draw what I think,” says Myint Soe.
Censorship rules are still unclear, but as long as artists keep pushing boundaries now – they will be able to set the benchmark for future artistic freedom.
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. It is published in conjunction with the Faculty of Mass Communications, Chiang Mai University. You can find more stories from Asia Calling at www.asiacalling.org.


 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Happy Birthday to HRH Princess Sirindhorn

Happy Birthday HRH Princess Ubolratana

HRH Princess Ubolratana presides over Bangkok Airways 45th anniversary in Berlin

Chakri Day is April 6

Elephants celebrate their National Day

Local charity wins 2nd Best NGO in the North

Safety bicycle lanes announced

Chiang Mai signs agreement with Hokkaido

New Tourist Office opens

Fest of the Five Regions

Open Lanna to the World…

One Tablet per Child (OTPC) Learning Application Contest

Chiang Mai prepares to host ICSA international conference

Two students dead in school bus accident in Chom Thong

Two Hmong men killed in gunfight with police

Suspicious bag found near U.S. Consulate

Driver arrested in bank delivery heist

Lampang police uncover nearly 400,000 Yaba tablets

Nimmanhaemin one way soi system scrapped

Municipality asks city residents for cooperation in tackling the smoke

Mini-concert to announce upcoming Lanna World Festival

Japanese government assists villagers with alternative energy sources

Art as a form of protest in Burma