Vol. V No. 50 - Saturday December 30, - January 5, 2007
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NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

95,000 pipal leaves on the tree of loyalty for HM the King

66.7 billion baht from tourism expected in 2007

Second earthquake strikes Chiang Mai

81,524 Mae Hong Son residents affected by freezing weather

Plants disappearing from the Royal Flora Exposition

Laotian Prime Minister celebrates Laotian National Day at Royal Flora Expo in Chiang Mai

Miss Chiang Mai 2007 to go international

Chiang Mai Provincial Police trains female officers to provide security for VIP’s

Phayao declared a disaster area due to cold weather – donations needed urgently

Gunfight between police and ya ba gang leaves 1 gang member dead

NEW THAI-LAO BRIDGE TO BOOST MEKONG TOURISM

95,000 pipal leaves on the tree of loyalty for HM the King

People purchasing and writing messages to pay homage to HM the King
(Translated by BRIGHT, student trainee / Edited by Ronnie McCrea)

Staff Reporter
Witsanu Wiwattananont, a staff member at the pipal tree of loyalty, disclosed that between 1,500 and 2,000 people a day are still purchasing leaves and writing messages to pay homage to HM the King at the pipal tree. There are now over 95,000 pipal leaves on the pipal tree of loyalty. All of them will be used to cast a figure of Buddha to honor HM the King in celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne and celebrating the 80th anniversary of his birthday in 2007. After deducting the expense costs, income from pipal leaves sales (99 baht each), will be presented to HM the King.


66.7 billion baht from tourism expected in 2007

Staff Reporter
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) predicted this week that tourism in the Northern Region will bring in more than 66 billion baht, and expects 14.7 million visitors in 2007.
At a meeting for those in the tourism sector in 2007, Pornsiri Manohan, vice domestic-marketing director of TAT, elaborated that Thailand receives approximately 330 billion baht per year (7 percent of GDP) from tourism. Starting in 2007, the government will implement a policy to develop the industry by promoting tourism economically and socially, and will set goals on income from tourism rather than from the number of tourists.
The goal on overall international tourism is an increase of 13.8 percent per year. Domestically, the number should increase 8 percent per year. The government will focus on ecotourism. For the Northern Region in 2007, there is an expectation of 14.7 million tourists, generating income of around 66.7 billion baht.


Second earthquake strikes Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang
Another earthquake struck Chiang Mai on the morning of December 19. The Northern Meteorological Center learned that the earthquake hit Chiang Mai with a power of 2.7 on the Richter scale, and the epicenter was located in the San Sai district, 13 km. to the west of Chiang Mai. There were no reports of damage from this earthquake, which was the 2nd time this week a trembler has rocked the city. The first, on December 13, (5.1 Richter and 10 km. deep), left only a slight crack on a building at Maejo University.
Chiang Mai Governor Wichai Srikwan urged every sector to keep monitoring for any additional unexpected earthquakes, especially because the first was the heaviest one in a decade, and the center was located in Chiang Mai, causing movement on the earth’s crust.
The Meteorological Department also discovered that there were 2 earthquakes (5.7 and 5.5 Richter) on Sumatra Island, Indonesia early in December, but that they caused no damage to Thailand. Also this month, there were 6 earthquakes in the Malacca Sea on December 12-13.


81,524 Mae Hong Son residents affected by freezing weather

Staff Reporter
Due to the extremely cold weather in the region, Thada Satha, head of the Mae Hong Son Meteorological Center, warned people to keep themselves warm. This is especially true in Muang Mae Hong Son, where the temperature reached only 13.7C. Even worse is the weather on the mountaintop, where it is a chilling 8-9C. It is expected that the temperature will continue to drop in Mae Hong Son.
Mae Hong Son Governor Direk Konkleeb has announced a state of emergency in 7 districts and 45 sub-districts of Mae Hong Son, where residents are still in need of 49,210 blankets and 32,314 sweaters. People have been donating sweaters and blankets to Mae Hong Son at the Red Cross office for people who face cold weather in remote areas. Many of these people are forced to stay close to a bonfire to keep warm.
Mae Hong Son donated money and warm clothes on December 16 under a program to help residents on the mountain. The province has acquired approximately 2,800,000 baht to purchase blankets and warm clothes for unfortunate people.


Plants disappearing from the Royal Flora Exposition

Saksit Meesubkwang
After learning that some plants were being stolen from the Royal Flora Exposition, on December 17, Pol. Maj. Gen. Worasak Noppasitthiporn, Commander of Provincial Police Bureau Region 5, and Pol. Col. Prasert launched an investigation to discover what was happening at the expo.
Pol. Col. Prasert reported that the officers found that some plants grown at the expo, such as colored pineapples, had disappeared. He said the culprits might be staff or visitors; however, they had no specific knowledge of who was involved.
He added that if the organizers were able to inform police of the thieves’ identities, the officers were prepared to prosecute the case. They hope the organizers can replace the plants that had disappeared with new ones so it wouldn’t become a big problem.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Worasak revealed that he already commanded officers to patrol the expo area carefully. He believed this is not a case of organized crime, but just individuals who like the plants. He was not concerned this would affect tourism.
The list of missing plants include Blue Iris, Rododendron, Ogahasu Lotus, Bottel Tree, Lodoicea Maldivica, Alcantarea Imperialis (colored pineapple), and Xanthornhoea Glauca.
Currently, the garden of Bhutan is most visited. The area gained in popularity after Prince Jigme of Bhutan visited the Royal Flora Expo in November.


Laotian Prime Minister celebrates Laotian National Day at Royal Flora Expo in Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang
On December 17, the Prime Minister of Laos, Buasorn Buphawan, opened the Laotian National Day at the Cultural Court of the International Horticultural Exposition with a flag and souvenir exchange, including shows to celebrate Laos. Buasorn then took a tram to visit the Expo and experience the beauty of the Royal Pavilion. He also visited the Laotian Garden and officially presented the garden to the Thai government, represented by Thira Sutabutr, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Visitors at the event also witnessed a Laotian native dance in front of the garden.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic built a replica of Chiang Khong Temple in Vientiane certified by UNESCO. The Lan Chang architect used 60 tons of lumber, 19 Laotian professional artisans, and took 9 days to build the structure at the Expo.
Adisak Srisaphakij, director-general of Department of Agriculture, disclosed that Buasorn was impressed with the preparedness of the International Horticultural Exposition, and felt the expo was well-organized and beautiful. While Buasorn was visiting the lower floor of the Royal Pavilion, which contains exhibits honoring His Majesty the King (including the “6-Decade King of Development”), he paid special attention to Zone 9. This zone includes HM the King’s philosophy of a self-sufficient economy. Buasorn said he had read all of it and was impressed by it.
Yong Chanthalangsee, director-general of the Department of Intelligence and spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos, said that Laos and Thailand have a long-standing good relationship. This expo gave Laos an opportunity to honor HM the King on celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne. Also, December is the month of the Laotian National Day.
Yong added that on December 20, HRH Princess Sirindhorn will open the 2nd Thai-Laotian Friendship Bridge which links Mukdahan province in Thailand with Sawankhet in Laos. The bridge will be the primary transportation and cargo-delivery route. Laos has signed an agreement of concession for private sectors in Thailand to improve the cargo warehouse in Sawankhet Airport and Free-Trade Sawankhet.


Miss Chiang Mai 2007 to go international

Beauty queens line up behind the officials at the press conference

Nopniwat Krailerg / Preeyanoot Jittawong
The Committee for the Winter Festival and Red Cross Festival in 2007 gave a press conference concerning the winter festival and the Miss Chiang Mai contest. Chiang Mai Governor Wichai Srikwan will be the president of the festival. Other members of the committee include: Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Thongchai Wongrianthong; Junnapong Saranak, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT): Region 1; Peerayuth Plabplueng, marketing assistant manager of Thai Beverage Public Co., Ltd. (the main sponsor); and Sutho Neewankool, managing director of Mag Media Chiang Mai Co., Ltd. They will be organizing the Miss Chiang Mai contest.

Two contestants show off their beautiful Thai traditional dresses.

Wichai Srikwan said that this year the Winter Festival and Red Cross Festival would be organized at the court behind the Chiang Mai City Hall from December 31 until January 14, 2007. It is the auspicious occasion to honor HM the King celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne and the 80th anniversary of his birthday in 2007. Among the many activities will be OTOP local product shops, academic work exhibitions, and other entertainments. The main highlight of the festival is the Miss Chiang Mai contest, which has been held for 8 decades.
The competition this year is entitled “Miss Chiang Mai 2007 Ueang-Ngam Nopburi Sri Nakhonping,” and will be organized by Mag Media Chiang Mai Co., Ltd. Applications are now being accepted for 60 beautiful women aged between 18 and 24 years from the 8 upper Northern provinces. As representatives of Northern Region, they should be able to speak the northern native dialect. The contest will be held at the Elephant Court of Central Airport Plaza department store on December 24, and the final round will be on January 5, 2007. The beautiful lady who wins the precious crown will represent Thailand at the international beauty contest.
Sutho Neewangkool disclosed that the company had signed a contract with Miss Tourism Queen International 2007, Thailand, the agency that will arrange for the Thai beauty queen to enter the international contest with women from 60 other countries. This years contest will be held in China, in June 2007. This is an opportunity for Chiang Mai ladies to exhibit the Lanna culture of Chiang Mai, and is the first time a contestant from Chiang Mai will compete in the international contest.
The winner of Miss Chiang Mai 2007 will also receive a special crown. The crown is 4-inches in diameter, 7-inches high, and is decorated with 5 yellow gems. The main gem is the jewel of friendship or “Topaz.” It is yellow, the color of auspiciousness, and is surrounded with big and small gems. The top of the crown is decorated with the initials of Ubolratana (Or-Ror). HRH Princess Ubolratana will present the crown to the winner.


Chiang Mai Provincial Police trains female officers to provide security for VIP’s

Staff Reporter
Chiang Mai Provincial Police have started a training program for female officers to provide security and control traffic. The main duty of the Chiang Mai Provincial Police is to provide security to HM the King, the royal family, royal guests, and foreign royal dynasties who visit Chiang Mai, as well as official and unofficial guests of the government. In order to prepare for future operations, the training program for 40 female police officers was held to increase their ability to provide security. The officers will gain knowledge on providing security to important persons, especially female VIP’s. The commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 plans for female officers to provide security and facilitate traffic works in order to create a positive image of the police among citizens.
This training program for female officers is the first in the Northern Region. Upon its completion, there will be a one-month evaluation of the officers’ competency. They will work in cooperation with border patrol police to correct any mistakes and improve the standard of their work.


Phayao declared a disaster area due to cold weather – donations needed urgently

Staff Reporter
Phayao has announced they are experiencing an emergency cold-weather disaster due to continuous dropping temperatures. Government agencies are asking for warm clothing donations for 40,000 residents of Phayao.
Prathuan Phruekmahachaiyakul, head of the Phayao Meteorological Center, disclosed that the dropping temperature in Phayao is caused by a high-pressure cold air mass from China that has covered the upper part of Thailand. In the Northern Region, the temperature drops down to 1-2C. In Phayao, the temperature on December 19 was 13.2C and will be getting colder, especially on the mountaintop where the temperature is at a freezing level. He warned that people should take special precautions to provide for their warmth.
Acting 2nd Lieutenant Nophadon Rattanasuwan, head of Phayao Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office, disclosed that approximately 40,000 residents in Phayao have a shortage of warm clothing. The province has been declared a disaster zone since November 31 in order to provide help to residents. They have established an emergency coordination center between government and private sectors, so they can best cooperate to help people. Anyone who wishes to donate warm clothes or blankets can take them to the Phayao Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office, 5th floor of Phayao City Hall, Tel. 0-5444-9644.


Gunfight between police and ya ba gang leaves 1 gang member dead

Saksit Meesubkwang
Chiang Rai Provincial Police, in cooperation with a narcotics suppression team, planned to purchase ya ba from a ya ba smuggling network after investigators learned there would be a big shipment coming from Myanmar. Officers lured the network with promises of a big purchase of ya ba and arranged the meet at Baan Pang Kiw in Mae Saruay district, Chiang Rai. 3-4 men appeared and brought the package to police.
When officers appeared and began to check the package, the drug network was alerted and started a gunfight with officers. After the 5-minute gunfight, none of the officers were wounded. Officers carefully checked the perimeter for any unexploded grenades from the network. They found one gang member lying dead. While his name is unknown, they believe he is a 32-year-old Lahu tribesman. He was dressed in a trekking suit and armed with a rifle. Officers also found 12,000 ya ba pills on his person. The rest of the gang fled with an amount of ya ba. Officers decided to dismiss the chase due to cold weather and dark increasing the level of danger.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Suthep Dejraksa, commander of Chiang Rai Provincial Police, said that this narcotic network smuggled ya ba from a big group in a neighboring country. There were perpetrators with outstanding warrants for their arrest among them.


NEW THAI-LAO BRIDGE TO BOOST MEKONG TOURISM

Travel and tourism to and within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is to get a significant boost with the opening of the second Friendship Bridge between Thailand and Lao PDR.on 20 December.
The bridge, which started construction in March 2004, was officially inaugurated by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and Lao Vice President Bounngang Vorachit in the presence of the Prime Ministers of the two countries as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

Linking the Lao province of Savannakhet with northeastern Thailand’s Mukdahan province, the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridgeis a key component of a major economic and infrastructure development plan to facilitate transportation, trade, investment,and tourism in the Mekong Sub-region.
Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said the bridge would foster intra-regional trade and investment, facilitate travel to Myanmarand Vietnamand ‘’in the future help to extend the corridor to China, Korea, Indiaand Bangladesh’’.
Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said the bridge was important to a landlocked country such as Lao PDR., and would enable it to boost the potentiality for transport services and expand trade and tourism with its neighbours.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also attended the ceremony.
A member of ASEAN since 1997, Lao PDR. is working hard to attain a three-fold improvement in national living standards by 2020.
Development of the Mekongbasin has been actively promoted since the first half of the 1990s after the restoration of peace in Cambodiaand in the IndochinaPeninsula, and with the transition to a market economy among socialist states in the post-Cold war era.
The first Thai-LaoFriendshipBridgeover the Mekonglinking the Thai provinceof Nong Khaiand the Lao PDR. capital of Vientianewas opened in 1994 with Australian funding.
The second 1.6-kilometre, two-lane bridge was funded via loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to the tune of 4,011 million yen to Lao PDR and 4,079 million yen to Thailand. It was JBIC’s first Overseas Development Assistance loan for a cross-border infrastructure development embracing two countries.
The bridge will play a major part in giving landlocked Lao PDR. access to ports in Thailandand Vietnam.
It is part of the East-West Corridor route which originates from central Vietnam’s Da Nang port, a centre of maritime transportation, and runs north along Vietnam’s National Highway No. 1 to Dong Ha. The route then connects Vietnamand Laos PDR. via National Highway No. 9, and further connects Laosand Thailandvia the new bridge.
The route connecting Vietnam and Savannakhet has been improved in the past through assistance from multilateral agencies and Japan. In Thailand, JBIC has financed improvement work on existing national highways that are part of the East-West Corridor. The new bridge will connect all these routes.
Although the bridge has international border control checkpoints, visitor flows will only begin after the relevant agreements are finalised between Thailand and Lao PDR. Cars travelling across the bridge will be charged 50 baht each and larger trucks, 350 baht.
The two provinces that will certainly benefit on both sides of the river are Savannakhet and Mukdahan, where the people share a lot of cultural, historical and ethnic heritage.
Home to an interesting mixture of cultures from various tribes since ancient times, Mukdahan is a land of fantastic natural rock formations and also renowned for its sweet tamarind fruit. Further information about Mukdahan province: http://www.tatnews.org/emagazine/1603.asp
Savannakhet can be easily explored by foot and has a number of interesting temples and architectural landmarks dating back to the colonial French days. There are 11 ethnic minorities.
Ho Tay Pidok Library houses a collection of 200-year-old palm leaf manuscripts written in the ancient Khom-Pali and Lao alphabets. Fossilized dinosaur bones discovered in Xonbuly District in 1930 are housed in the Dinosaur Exhibition Hall in Khanthabouly, the provincial capital.
In January-March 2006, overland Lao PDR. arrivals to Thailand totalled 38,269, up 45.27% over the same period of 2005.www.TATnews.org. Photo: Mukdahan PR Office.



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