NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

No damage from 5.1-power earthquake in Chiang Mai. Building regulations revisions expected

Statue of Buddha casting ceremony at Ratchaphruek

Long-Necked Karen villages to be combined and relocated

Chiang Rai’s Akha New Year Festival details announced

Precautions taken against arson in Northern Region schools

Thief gets away with 200,000 baht in gold necklaces

Border patrol police arrest 41 Burmese hidden in petrol tank

5-months pregnant Akha woman arrested for selling US currency coins

Mae Hong Son border-patrol police bust ya ba smuggling ring

Record visitors at Thailand’s historic Floral Expo

No damage from 5.1-power earthquake in Chiang Mai. Building regulations revisions expected

Staff Reporter
The Department of Public Works, and Town and City Planning in Chiang Mai agreed to implement a standard of building construction in order to withstand high tremors after an earthquake (measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale) occurred. The center of the tremor was located in the Mae Rim district. It was feared that if a quake reaches 7 on the Richter scale, buildings might collapse. Many agencies surveyed the effects of this earthquake, but no damage was found in Phra That Doi Sutep, and Mae Kuang Udom Thara is also in good condition.
Prachon Prachsakun, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office, disclosed that the earthquake happened late at night on December 12 at 12:02 a.m., and the center of the tremor was in the seam of Mae Rim and San Sai districts. Every district and Local Administration Organization (LAO) was ordered to check for damage. However, there was no report of damages from the quake. Although a crack was found in male dormitory 4 of Maejo University, it turned out to be a pre-existing crack from old plaster.
Rangsit Chansiripitikul, head of Engineering Department of Mae Kuang Reservoir project, said that after checking Mae Kuang Dam after the tremor, no damage was found there either. He confirmed that the dam was strong, and officers always check and maintain it. Chuan Phadwan, temple affairs manager of Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, said that after the earthquake, the temple had checked Doi Suthep Relic of Buddha immediately, but did not find any damage. However, it will still be looked at by officers of the Department of Fine Arts.
The Chiang Mai Deputy Governor said that the buildings in Chiang Mai are strong - especially buildings which have been built recently. However, in the future, safety measures to prevent damage from earthquakes will be stricter. The central official department will announce these measures.
Wirat Tangmankhong-worrakul, Engineer 8 of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Works, Town and City Planning Office, disclosed that the office had coordinated with every district and Chiang Mai Municipality to check for any damage. He believes that no severe damage was found because most buildings in Chiang Mai are well designed, and can withstand an earthquake with a 5-6 Richter level. However, if there is an earthquake of 6-7 Richter, it is possible that buildings will collapse. There is discussion about a building height regulation, but the limitations would vary depending on each area. The buildings will be checked to ensure they passed the standard set by their locality.


Statue of Buddha casting ceremony at Ratchaphruek

People buy pipal leaves to write sentences honoring HM the King

Staff Reporter
The staff of the International Horticultural Exposition Ratchaphruek 2006 created a statue of Buddha from pipal leaves written by people honoring His Majesty the King. It is estimated this Buddha is worth 8 million baht.
On December 13, Monk President Chao Pra Khun Somdej Phra Maha Mangklajarn, and Theera Suthabuth, the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, officiated at the statue of Buddha casting ceremony. People were given the opportunity to donate and write sentences honoring HM the King on pipal leaves, and then to attach them on a loyalty pipal tree at the International Horticultural Exposition Ratchaphruek 2006. Thus far, about 8 million baht has been donated.
The staff had recently conducted a casting ceremony for a statue of a meditating Buddha in order to honor HM the King, celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne. This Buddha contained 67,975 pipal leaves from visitors from November 1 – December 5. The statue’s hair will be cast from gold when enough gold (or money to purchase the gold) is donated.
A second statue of Buddha will be cast on the auspicious occasion of honoring HM the King, celebrating the 80th anniversary of his birthday. This statue will be cast from pipal leaves collected from December 6 – January 31, 2007. The casting ceremony will be occuring on January 31, 2007.
N.B. The Sacred Fig Ficus religiosa, also known as Bo (from the Sinhalese Bo), Pipal (Peepul) or Ashwattha tree, is a species of banyan fig native to India, southwest China and Indochina east to Vietnam. It is a large dry season-deciduous or semi-evergreen tree up to 30 m tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 3 m.


Long-Necked Karen villages to be combined and relocated

Staff Reporter
Mae Hong Son Governor Direk Konkleeb disclosed that he is still working on a project to move 2 Long-Necked Karen villages. The villages to be relocated are Baan Huay Sua Thao in the Pha Bong sub-district, and Ban Nai Soi in the Pang Moo sub-district of Muang Mae Hong Son. The goal is to have them live together in Baan Huay Poo Kaeng in the Pha Bong sub-district of Muang Mae Hong Son.
The National Security Council (NSC) has acquired the data necessary to move both villages. A Long-Necked Karen Cultural Center has been planned for Baan Huay Pu Kaeng. It will be divided into many zones to attract visitors, and will be located on 105 rai, near the Pai River. Visitors will be able to visit Baan Huay Pu Kaeng by car, or by rafting on the Pai River.
Direk Konkleeb, the director of Thai Border Command Center in Mae Hong Son, disclosed that this relocation plan aims to promote tourism in Mae Hong Son. Although there are many objections, the province still wants the Long-Necked Karen village to have a cultural center. Leaders of Long-Necked Karen tribe have authorities to manage for themselves. There are currently about 177 Long-Necked Karen tribesmen in Baan Huay Sua Thao, about 233 in Baan Nai Soi, and about 199 in Baan Huay Pu Kaeng. If tribesmen from both villages are moved into Baan Huay Pu Kaeng, it will be the biggest Long-Necked Karen village and cultural center.


Chiang Rai’s Akha New Year Festival details announced

Staff Reporter
Arthorn Youlue, a Samakkhee-Kao village headman, announced the details for the Akha New Year Festival. A committee from Samakkhee Kao village, alumni from Sri Som Wong Border Patrol Police College, and the Mae Fa Luang Tambon Administration Organization will organize the Akha New Year Festival on December 30. The festival will begin at 9.30 a.m. at Sri Som Wong Border Patrol Police College in Baan Samakkhee-Kao, Mae Fa Luang sub-district.
This year the focus will be on remembering HRH Princess Mother’s graciousness, honoring HM the King, learning about Akha culture, conserving nature and the environment, and promoting tourism in the Mae Fa Luang sub-district.
For information on Akha culture, staying overnight with tribesmen, or to find camping locations, telephone 086-116-4118 or 084-616-8418, or speak to the Samakkhee-Kao village headman.


Precautions taken against arson in Northern Region schools

Saksit Meesubkwang
Lt. Gen. Jiradej Kocharat, commanding general of the 3rd Army Region, said that after the National Security Council (NSC) seized the previous government’s power, politicians of the old regime who lost their power and money might be motivated to cause trouble. After an outbreak of fires in several schools, it is feared that they might be attempting to commit arson in many schools in the Northern Region.

Lt. Gen. Jiradej Kocharat, commanding general of the 3rd Army Region, giving an interview

To combat this problem, on December 14 Lt. Gen. Jiradej broadcast an urgent order to governors and directors of regional educational offices in 17 Northern provinces. They were ordered to closely monitor safety and security for academies and schools in their areas. This included inspecting all electrical wires and fuses to prevent any short circuits. All the reports must be submitted to the 3rd Army Region by December 20.
After acknowledging the order, Dr. Surasen Thangthong, director of Educational Office: Region 1, complied with the demands and requested the other 121 directors of educational offices to do likewise. Any damages, especially to fuses, must be repaired immediately. In addition, every academy must provide security guards. If any negligence is discovered, the director of that educational office will be penalized. Also, any damaged electrical equipment found after the inspection will be found in violation of the order and the director will be punished.


Thief gets away with 200,000 baht in gold necklaces

Staff Reporter
On December 14, police were informed a robbery was in progress in a gold shop at the Baan Du market in Muang Chiang Rai. When officers arrived at the “Supharp Gold Shop, the owner, Supharp Boonsri (50), informed them that a male, wearing a handkerchief mask, came to the shop and threatened them with a pistol. Then, he shot a bullet into the ground and took 15 gold necklaces (19-baht weight) before fleeing on his red Honda motorbike. The necklaces are valued at 200,000 baht. Officers radioed other units to try to catch the thief, but were unsuccessful.
Pol. Lt. Col. Thosphum said that the inspectors learned that the suspect was a male in his early 30’s. He is described as stocky and dark-skinned, and he uses a pistol. The description is similar to a man who robbed a petrol station in Mae Yao sub-district. By comparing the robber’s pistol, his appearance, and his vehicle, they believe he is the same man. However, they think his license plate was fake. Officers were ordered to continue their investigation, and to focus on movements of teenagers in the area. Police are confident they will make an arrest soon.


Border patrol police arrest 41 Burmese hidden in petrol tank

Staff Reporters
On December 15, Pol. Lt. Gen. Rangsitmunt Songkrotham, Commander of the 344th Border Patrol Police at Tha Song Yang district of the Tak province, noticed a suspicious 18-wheel yellow Volvo petrol transporting truck driving on Highway 105 from Mae Sot to Mae Sariang.
When he and his officers stopped the truck at Baan Huay Pang Yang in the Maetan sub-district, they found a driver, Thaptim Srimuang, 40, and a passenger, Thon Thunpakdee, 37. The officers then inspected the vehicle. When the petrol tank was opened, they discovered 41 Burmese laborers hiding inside.
Police report that during the investigation, the driver admitted that he charged 4,000 – 5,000 baht per illegal worker to transport them to Bangkok. He picked them up from Baan Mae Pa, in Tak, and drove on Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road to try to escape officer’s attention. He was charged with bringing an illegal alien into the kingdom. All of the Burmese workers were arrested.


5-months pregnant Akha woman arrested for selling US currency coins

Saksit Meesubkwang
Police arrested a married couple from the Akha tribe on December 4 for selling counterfeit US currency coins to a tourist. Even though the arrested female is five months pregnant, the officers denied her bail. In response, 50 Akha tribes people asked for assistance from Pol. Lt. Col. Mongkol Sampawapon, superintendent of Muang Chiang Mai Police Station.
The Akha delegation, led by the president of the Akha Tribe Club of Chiang Mai, Manoon Thainurak, presented a petition to the superintendent on December 14. They asserted that the woman, Kingkaew Pamornwijit, 27, and her husband, Athu Chamloot, 23, had been incarcerated for more than ten days at Muang Chiang Mai station. Both are residents of Chiang Mai.
Manoon said that the couple sold souvenirs at the nearby night bazaar. Two days before the arrest, an American tourist bought ten antique collectible US$ coins for 60 baht each, and ordered more 650 coins. The tourist later went to the police. The couple was charged with selling counterfeit coins.
A few days later, relatives of the two offenders requested the court to set bail, and offered to submit property worth 100,000 baht and 50,000 baht in cash for each of them to secure their release. The court denied their request, saying that their actions may affect the country’s economic security. The relatives then requested the officers allow only the wife to be bailed out because they were afraid for the health of the unborn baby.
Manoon added that the Akha tribe met with officers of the US Consulate to Chiang Mai and learned that the coins should not be sold as souvenirs. However, they said they were unaware of this previously, and more than 20 sellers along the night bazaar had been selling this type of coin as a souvenir.
The superintendent of Muang Chiang Mai Police Station decided to command investigation officers to allow the court to set bail for the pregnant woman. Even though they may not have known their practice was illegal, they were still guilty of breaking the law. Nevertheless, if they could prove they did not know it was illegal, he promised to consider leniency.


Mae Hong Son border-patrol police bust ya ba smuggling ring

Saksit Meesubkwang
On December 13, an informer told the commander of the 336 Division Border-Patrol Police in Mae Hong Son that alien laborers were smuggling ya ba pills into Thailand. The commander issued an order to a squad leader to set an ambush at Baan Huay Phueng, between the Thai and Burmese border.
At 2.00 p.m., when a tall man with a backpack approached the area, officers apprehended him and found 3 bags of WY ya ba pills (1,000 pills). The Burmese perpetrator, Noi, (last name unknown), is a Tai tribesman. Police say he alleged that a Thai financial backer hired him to deliver the package to Mae Hong Son. The financial backer would then distribute the package to teenagers in the area.
Pol. Maj. Col. Aphichart Rakpong, commander of the 336 Division Border-Patrol Police, said their intelligence discovered that the ya ba dealing network has changed their delivery methods. Previously, they used a caravan and hired alien laborers who would immigrate into the city to deliver the package. However, this old way became too risky and they sometimes fought with Thai officers. In the new method, a single smuggler carries less than 1,000 pills. Although they are still occasionally arrested, it is easier to escape unnoticed than when they travel in a caravan.


Record visitors at Thailand’s historic Floral Expo

Chiang Mai, Thailand, December 21, 2006 — Thousands of visitors are flocking to the “Royal Flora Ratchaphruek”, the international horticultural expo being held in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai as part of the celebrations commemorating the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne.
Designed to celebrate the agricultural ingenuity of His Majesty the King and his extensive contributions to the rural development of Thailand, the expo bears the theme “To Express the Love of Humanity”, a reflection of the King’s belief that even in these days of high-technology, flowers and plants will always be an integral part of people’s life.
The expo opened on 1 November 2006 with a projected estimate of two million visitors. However, as word spreads of its inspiring message and professional organisation, the numbers are expected to double. The prevailing good weather conditions are creating an additional incentive.
As of 1 December 2006, the expo had already recorded one million people.
Roughly 2.5 million plants and flowers, including some rare species of orchids, are on display at the expo which bears a strong environmental message and is helping to create a whole generation of environmentally-conscious young activists who will take His Majesty the King’s message forward into the future.
From a tourism perspective, the expo is boosting domestic tourism, raising hotel occupancies in Chiang Mai and giving extensive exposure to North Thailand, projected to be a bridgehead for Thailand’s future economic development plans and linkages with the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Department of Agriculture, and Horticultural Science Society of Thailand, supported by the International Society for Horticultural Science and the World Flower Council, the expo is being widely promoted worldwide by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Thai Airways International, Royal Thai embassies and the entire Thai travel and tourism industry.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Deputy Governor for Marketing and Communications, Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni said, “Thailand is very proud to be hosting such a magnificent event for the first time. It fits in perfectly with our plans to diversify our range of destinations, spread visitors around the country and raise the incomes of rural people.”
The expo is spread over 80 hectares at the Royal Agricultural Research Centre on the outskirts of Chiang Mai city, amidst the lush landscape of the surrounding mountains.
The conceptual designs and layouts of the event are directly linked to the philosophy and wisdom of King Bhumibol whose kindness towards his people is like the comforting shade of a big tree with a canopy that extends incessantly to provide sanctuary for his people.
The event is the first ever international horticultural exposition with A1 status recognised by the Association of International Horticultural Producers (AIPH) and the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) to be held in Thailand which also becomes the first country in Southeast Asia to host an A1 exposition.
The A1 status places the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek in the same league as other global expos such as the IGA Rostock in Germany and FLORIADE in Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands.
Leading Thai and global companies have sponsored individual corporate gardens, all of which are elaborately designed to be both scenic and educational, incorporating His Majesty’s concepts and theories of economic self-sufficiency, and also reflecting Thailand’s art, culture and way of life.
There are also 32 international gardens contributed by nations with whom Thailand has shared history, cultural, diplomatic and trade ties.
There is still time to visit this historic event. Please check the website http://www.royalfloraexpo.com/for further details as well as to book online tickets.