HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Dragon dancers welcome the Chinese New Year

Chiang Mai celebrates the Year of the Rabbit

Flower Festival kicks off Saturday

Meet the Consuls

Suspect in 5 year old murder case found guilty

Mae Moh villagers close the highway in Lampang

Pai police seize assets of drug traffickers

Elephant free streets

Meet the Consuls

In Memoriam


Dragon dancers welcome the Chinese New Year

The Fire Dragon is a benevolent creature, bringing rains, good luck and prosperity
and the dance is performed during the New Year to scare off evil spirits.

By Shana Kongmun

The 40 meter long red and gold fire dragon dancing down Tha Pae Road on the morning of February 4, 2011 saw throngs of tourists, visitors and residents line the road to watch. With the clanging of drums and cymbals to scare away the evil spirits the dragon was followed by lion dancers, the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China, Zhu Wei Min, Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn, City Administrator Dr. Ken Santitham, members of the local Thai Chinese community and school children.

The festival continued on at Lao Jow Soi off Kuangmain Road and Witchayanond Road at Waroros Market with an acrobatic troupe from China, dances, food and, of course, firecrackers set off to frighten away the bad luck for the coming year. The Chinese New Year festivities continue through Saturday.

Chinese Consul General Zhu Wei Min, Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn, Dr. Ken Santitham and members of the local Chinese community gather before the start of the parade.

Even the smallest members of the community got into the spirit and joined the New Year’s festivities.

Lion dancers are another important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations,
usually visiting area businesses to bring good luck and fortune.


Chiang Mai celebrates the Year of the Rabbit

A Fire dragon is one of the highlights of the Chiang Mai
Chinatown Chinese New Year celebration.

Chiang Mai rings in the year of the Rabbit with the 9th annual celebration of Chinese New Year will this Friday and Saturday at Lao Jow Soi off Kuangmain Road and Witchayanond Road in Waroros Market from 9 a.m. to midnight.This year festival goers will be treated to an acrobatic troupe from Guangxi, China and a fire dragon more than 40 meters long. Chinese food and sweets will be on sale as well

Chiang Mai Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn said the municipality, along with Chinese club, foundations, and organizations in Chiang Mai were hosting the festival aimed at promoting the culture and traditions of the Thai Chinese.

The day’s activities will include a grand parade of those Chinese organizations and representatives, Cultural performance, Chinese music, martial arts performances and Miss Chiang Mai Chinatown 2011.For more information, please contact Chiang Mai Municipality Public Relation Office Tel 053-259-097, 253-109.

Flower Festival kicks off Saturday

The 35th annual Chiang Mai Flower Festival will be held this weekend at Tha Pae Gate and Nong Buak Haad Park from February 4 6 from 9 a.m. to midnight. The grand opening will take place on Saturday, February 5 at the Nawarat Bridge with the parade of flower covered floats moving through the city to end at Nong Buak Haad Public Park.
The winner of the best floral float in the parade will receive the trophy of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn with three categories, beauty, creativity and cultural preservation.

Plant and flower sales, competitions, community products, and a local market display will be featured at the park. Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn has asked residents along the parade route to join in the festivities by beautifying their buildings with flowers and ornamental plants.

Meet the Consuls

The United Kingdom

By Shana Kongmun

The always charming and dapper British Honorary Consul Ben Svasti Thomson is a well known figure in Chiang Mai, having been involved in Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) work since his arrival in Thailand in 1979. Originally on a round the world trip, a familiar refrain from a few of our honorary consuls it would seem, he stopped over as a short term volunteer when the Cambodian border “blew apart and half a million refugees flooded in.”

He grew up in Surrey, the Home Counties, as he notes, and went to Charterhouse Public School, and then on to University to study Social Anthropology. His father was the Head of Conservation at the famed National Gallery earning an O.B.E in the process and his mother is Mom Rajawongse Saisvasdi Svasti, a member of the Thai Royal Family, attached to the Court in the U.K.

It was this background that instilled in him a sense of noblesse oblige, the idea that “a spoiled brat such as myself should give back,” he noted with a laugh. “I’ve always been in charity work and took my M.A. in Rural Social Development,” which he earned at Reading University after working in the field in Thailand for 10 years.”I knew what skills I lacked,” he added.

He returned to Thailand and continued his social development work, from women’s rights, and encouraging them to get out of the sex trade to HIV/AIDS issues when that exploded onto Thailand. He saw the HIV/AIDS issue as an extension of growing women’s rights, encouraging condom use in brothels and among women in the general population.

He noted, “You don’t see the horrific numbers of deaths that you used to see, so everyone has an impression its not a problem anymore.” The Honorary Consul pointed out that the three main stages have been prevention, hospice care and caring for the survivors, helping the children and the elderly grandparents who ended up being their primary caregivers.

Mr. Svasti Thomson became in involved in Trafcord, a further extension of his concern for women and children’s rights, which works to prevent human trafficking.

A busy man, he is also involved in promoting Lanna culture through Southern Breeze, which he started after the tsunami to encourage confidence in Thailand which sends Thai cultural performance artists to Europe.

He became Honorary Consul over a year ago, he noted, “I’ve been close to the Embassy for many years, they have supported the AIDS program and Trafcord.” He added that he feels the position is an extension of his social projects, with his latest effort working to get visitors for elderly British shut-ins around Chiang Mai.

He noted that while the Consulate doesn’t have the financial resources to help the significant number of Britons in severe economic hardship or who even die in hospital but whose families cannot afford to pay the bills and bring them home, he hopes that he can help mobilize the British community to network to help each other. Home visits is one such idea, another could be helping people deal with hospitals. He added that he was quite surprised at the large number of elderly single British nationals living alone, being helped out by their Thai neighbors.

The British Honorary Consulate provides notarial services for citizens such as income guarantees, and providing assistance and paperwork to the parents of children who need to apply for passports, “Although we can’t process the application ourselves.” Additionally, they make sure that any U.K. citizen in trouble with the Thai law is fairly represented and will offer a list of lawyers to call. Additionally they will visit British prisoners and help to make sure they receive adequate medical care. They will visit any patients in critical condition in the hospital. “Most hospitals will call the Consulate or the Embassy if they have a British patient in very bad condition.” British citizens who are victims of theft, assault, rape or other crimes will receive counseling from the Consulate and advice on the best course of action to take.

The Consulate estimates about 1,500 British citizens live in Chiang Mai. The Consulate is located at 198 Bumrungrat Road and can be reached at 053-263 015. Open Monday through Friday from 9 11:30 a.m.

Finally, after so many years in the North, he added that the thing he loved the most about Chiang Mai was that while it has all the amenities of a big city, access to the outdoors and mountains is so nearby. “I take my dogs walking regularly. I couldn’t live in Bangkok because it’s so cut off from nature. Here it’s so close, 20 minutes and you are in nature and have a view.”

Suspect in 5 year old murder case found guilty

Former partner of Warm Up Café given life in prison

Sumet Pongpiew, the father of the murder victim, is joined by Pornsak Sangsangwal, right, chairman of the Lawyers;’ Association of Chiang Mai, to give his opinion on the guilty verdict in the five year old murder of his daughter.

Saksit Meesubkwang and Nopniwat Krailerg

A former partner in the popular Warm Up Café on Nimmanhaemin Road was sentenced to life in prison in the 5 year old murder of his girlfriend by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court on January 18.

Wuthichai Jaisamak, also known as Pu, was found guilty in the brutal murder; in December of 2005 the body of Benjaporn Pongpiew, or Nong Anne, was found strangled, with her wrists tied, hanging from a tree on the Chiang Mai University campus. Police made no progress in the case until Nong Anne’s father, Sumet Pongpiew, filed a lawsuit against Wuthichai in 2008 after consulting with the National Police Bureau, Department of Special Investigations and the Lawyer’s Association of Chiang Mai.

After the judgment was announced, the chairman for the Association said that if the police had worked hard and carefully on the case it would have been closed early on and that only once the Lawyer’s Association started working with Nong Anne’s father and set up a committee to work with former police investigators did the case finally move forward.

Nong Anne’s father thanked the court for dispensing justice, the Lawyer’s Association and the former police investigators who helped provide the clear evidence to gain the guilty verdict.


Mae Moh villagers close the highway in Lampang

Rally for transparency in funds dispersal to affected villagers

Villagers from 5 Mae Moh tambons rallied against the fund management committee, burning a coffin with their names on it.

Thaweerat Pensalaphan

Mae Moh villagers closed the highway and burned a coffin protesting the management of the Mae Moh Lignite Power Plant’s development fund committee. On January 28 about 1,000 villagers from 5 Tambons; Sobpard, Bandong, Nasak, Changnua and Mae Moh, all in Mae Moh District, called for transparency surrounding the fund management.

The villagers set up tents blocking the highway and intersection in front of the Mae Moh Post Office and Municipal buildings, causing traffic to stall and making the road impassable. They also burned a coffin with the name of the Mae Mon Development Fund Committee. Then the President of each Tambon Administrative Organization took turns on stage to attack the working procedures of the Committee.

They also asked for Mae Moh District Officer to explain about the development funds management before they submitted a petition listing seven issues to Lampang Governor Athikhom Suwanpong and called for transparency on fund management and more fair dispersal of funds for the villagers affected by the Mae Moh Lignite Power Plant.

Over a thousand people blocked the highway in Lampang to rally for transparency in funds dispersal to affected villagers.

Pai police seize assets of drug traffickers

Governor Kamthorn Thavornsatit of Mae Hong Song is joined by officers of the Narcotics Control Board, Border Patrol Police and officers from the 7th Infantry to announce the results of the latest drugs sweep.

Khajohn Boonpath

Mae Hong Son Governor Kamthorn Thavornsatit led the combined force of officers from the Narcotics Control Board, Border Patrol Police and soldiers of the 7th Infantry Special Task Force in a raid on the homes of suspected traffickers in Mae Na Terng and Tung Yao.

The former village headman of Ban Na Terng, Prayoon Chantarat, fled from police who had come with a warrant for his arrest, leaving his wife at the house. Authorities seized his house, two motorcycles, furniture, 24 cows, and teak wood and wood processing equipment as part of the raid.

5 men were also arrested as being suspected drug traffickers and were found with 26,000 baht in cash and handmade rifles.

Governor Kamthorn Thavornsatit said the sweep was ordered by the Office of the Prime Minister on Drug Suppression and that the assets of drug suspects would be seized.

Elephant free streets

Saengduen Chailert of the Save the Elephant Foundation and other supporters present the petition to remove begging elephants to Rittiphong Techaphan, representing the Governor at a protest at City Hall on December 24, 2010.

No more begging elephants on the street. That was the claim of a Chiang Mai councillor recently, who says that over 20 elephants and their mahouts were forced out of the city by the police. Speaking on condition of using a pseudonym, Khun 'Sarm' said that on December 28th most of the mahouts were rounded up and taken to Mae Ping police station. During a 7 hour meeting, they were told they were breaking the law as well as harming the elephants and causing road safety hazards, and given 2 days to leave or be arrested, fined heavily and possibly jailed. Almost all the mahouts complied and organised trucks to move their animals, most returning to their home province of Surin where the Governor has a programme to pay them to stay.

Twenty-four hours later, only 2 elephants were still being paraded around tourist areas, mahouts begging for money to feed them. (Some mahouts have been 'earning' up to 8,000 baht per night and using mobile phones between them to avoid police). Khun 'Sarm' said that after a police 'reminder', the last 2 also left hastily for Surin, where they claim the Governor's grant is not enough for them and their animals to live on.

Chiang Mai's clean up comes some months after a similar, successful operation in Bangkok, and when MyChiangMai questioned business operators in the Night Bazaar and Tha Pae Gate areas, all agreed that no elephant begging teams had been seen since New Year's Eve.

The clean-up comes only weeks after a mahout appeared in court accused of attacking a young Australian couple with his metal hook after they complained of his treatment of an elephant. On the same day, Save Elephant Foundation director Sangduen 'Lek' Chailert and supporters presented a petition of over 100,000 signatures to the provincial Governor, protesting elephant begging. See (MyChiangMai)

Meet the Consuls

The Honorary Consul of the Republic of Peru

Mom Luang Preeyapun Sridhavat is a well known figure around Chiang Mai, famous not only for her graciousness and beauty but for her tireless work for her Ballet Academy. In addition to the work there, she adds in her role as the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Peru in Chiang Mai, working hard to promote a strong relationship between Peru and Thailand in trade and culture.

A Chiang Mai University graduate, Khun Preeyapun took her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Cultural Management (Interdisciplinary & International Program), from Chulalongkorn University. Additionally, she has received Director certification and accreditation from the Thai Institute of Directors and earned a teaching diploma from the famed Royal Academy of Dance in the United Kingdom. Additionally, she has studied and been certified as a teacher in Jazz, Latin and flamenco dancing, showing that not only is she lovely, but talented as well.

A sitting Associate Judge of the Juvenile and Family Court in Chiang Mai since 1993 she added to her already busy schedule by becoming the Honorary Consul of Peru in 2002.

She has extensive connections throughout the city with her work as the former Director of the Y.M.C.A, and her extensive work with the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.

This very busy lady currently serves as the Vice President of the National Council of Women of Thailand and Chairperson to coordinate, to supervise and to assist 192 women organizations’ members from 72 provinces (out of a total of 77 provinces) all over Thailand and to run the women development projects over the 3 year term (2009-2012) and is Chairwoman on International Affairs of The Federation of Business and Professional Women's Associations of Thailand Under the Royal Patronage of H.M. the Queen of Thailand (2008-2011) and is the current head of the Ballet and Jazz Association of Thailand.

Very active in Women’s issues, Khun Preeyapun has received numerous awards, from the World Award, “Beyond 2000: Helping Women to Help Themselves” from International Federation of Business and Professional Women Association, Vancouver, Canada, September 1999, the Asia Pacific Woman Inspire Award in Art Category Year 2002, Singapore.

Her important work was recognized when she was awarded the Outstanding National Women of the Year 2008 from the National Council of Women of Thailand, August 2008, and earlier received the Outstanding Award for the Good Projects Achievements in 2001 from the Federation of Business and Professional Women Association of Thailand

Her well known Ballet school, The Chiang Mai Ballet Academy, was bestowed a Royal Award in 2001 by H.M. the King of Thailand for highest standard achievements in various aspects.

This philanthropic woman organizes the very popular annual charity ballet and jazz performances to raise funds to support The Red Cross in Thailand and Northern Mentally Retarded People Welfare Center; since 1987. Approximately 200,000 baht has been raised each year.

Her relationship with Peru began in 2002 when she was selected as member of the Thai Trade Representatives to promote trade and culture between Thailand and Peru.
“As the President of the Business and Professional Women Association (BPW) Chiang Mai, Chairperson on business women development for the Federation of BPW or BPW Thailand and an associate judge of the Juvenile and Family court, I was invited by my friend who is a high rank of Judge from the court Region 5, to bring my ballet students to perform in the Royal private birthday party of the elder brother of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand,” she said.

“At this party, I had an opportunity to meet the Peruvian Ambassador. Since then, I have helped the ambassador for making "business matches" between Thai and Peruvian companies. It has been easy for me as I have many connections from all members of the BPW in each province in Thailand and we used computer, email, and mobile phone for our correspondences.”

She added, “In this respect, I was invited to join the Thai Trade Representatives to Peru and South American Countries and the Ambassador asked me to help Peruvian as Honorary Consul in Chiang Mai. After careful consideration, the proposal was sent to both governments for approval, I have been appointed as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Peru by the President of Peru and His Majesty the King of Thailand since September 2002. I met President Toledo of Peru and the first lady at APEC meeting in Bangkok. Now I am also Vice President of the National Council of Women of Thailand, I have more contacts with women leaders all over the country and it is very helpful for the work.”


In Memoriam

Mrs. Manee Lugg née Langkulsen

Born in Pak Nam Pran 17 July 1942, the daughter of Kamnan Tomorn and Mae Tab Langkulsen, she went to Satree Prachuab Somboon Secondary School in Prachuab Kiri Khan and graduated Satree Wittaya Pre-University, Bangkok. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences, Upper Second Class Honours, 1965 at Chulalongkorn University and was a lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities at Chiang Mai University. A British Council Scholar, University of Hull, Postgraduate Diploma Southeast Asian Studies, 1968 she graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Master of Arts (Applied Linguistics)in 1988.

Additionally she worked as an English Language Lecturer, Singapore Polytechnic, National University of Singapore and UNISIM and was the former President of the Singapore Tertiary English Teachers Society (STETS) and Cheer Squad President of Sor Jor Mor, and President of Netball, Chulalongkorn University.

An avid sportswoman, this former Chiang Mai resident will be missed greatly by her loving family, children Thom and Amy, and husband Peter. She died at Pranburi on December 24 and funeral rites were held at Wat Pak Klong Pran on the 29th of December.

May Manee Lugg née Langkulsen for all the good deeds she contributed in her life rest in peace forever.