HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

200 kilos of heroin and 12 suspects caught in Phrae

Man abducts 7 year old Doi Saket girl

Suspected food poisoning outbreak in Lampang

Northern Thai economy continues to expand

Meet the Consuls

American businessman arrested for drugs

Lampang faces early drought

Prison drug raid in Mae Hong Son

Chiang Mai Red shirts head to Bangkok

4th Thai-Lao Friendship bridge planned in Chiang Rai

Peace Walk planned in Chiang Mai

Meet the Consuls


200 kilos of heroin and 12 suspects caught in Phrae

Opium poppy production expanding in Myanmar

Nearly 200 kilograms of heroin valued at 76 million baht in Thailand,
was confiscated in one of the biggest drugs busts in ten years.

Saksit Meesubkwang

Phrae police arrested 12 suspects and confiscated nearly 200 kilograms of heroin in the biggest drug ring arrest in 10 years the Provincial Police Bureau, Region 5 announced on February 19.
Pol Lt Gen Chaiya Siri-amphankul, Region 5 Commissioner said the haul of heroin was intended for shipment overseas and added that there were some ‘influential persons’, who were behind the trafficking.

6 of the arrested men were all from the same Hmong hill tribe in Tabtao, Toeng district in Chiang Rai while the other suspects were from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Nakhon Phanom. One 14 year old boy was also caught with the men.

The police arrested them with 512 heroin bars, weighing 195 kilograms, concealed in 5 different pickup trucks while the drugs were en route for delivery to Bangkok.

Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Chaiya added that on February 15 investigative police, led by Pol. Col. Thanarat Chumsawas, the Superintendent of the investigative police of Region 5, and police team 1 followed the suspects from Toeng district, Chiang Rai to Mae Suay and then to Lampang. The suspects then continued on to Chai Prakarn and Chiang Dao before heading towards Phrae where the local police set up a roadblock on the orders of the Investigative police.

The police stopped the first two trucks at the checkpoint in Phrae where the police detained 7 suspects and then 5 more shortly thereafter. The suspects confessed that they had been hired to smuggle the drugs to “influential persons” in Bangkok for 5 million baht for this trip.

Pornthep Iamprapai, Director of the Office of Narcotics Control Board, Region 5 said the heroin was transferred from a Red Wa gang along the Thai-Myanmar border through the border pass in Mae Ai and Fang districts, Chiang Mai.

“The heroin has been refined in neighboring countries and delivered from the border for transport to Bangkok and then on to third countries,” Pornthep said. The value of the refined heroin in Thailand was around 380,000 baht per kilogram. Noting that most of the opium was being grown in the Shan State in Myanmar, he added that many members of the Hmong hill tribes were under surveillance by the ONCB for trafficking in drugs.

He added that the planting area inside Myanmar had grown by 30 percent since last year’s production.

Man abducts 7 year old Doi Saket girl

Sakasit Meesubkwang

A 7 year old girl was abducted from the girl’s toilet at her school in Doi Saket and repeatedly raped by a 31 year old furniture builder on February 16.

Suchart Yuangton of Doi Saket was arrested by the police after he abducted and raped a 7 year old girl from the school restroom.

Suchart Yuangton, 31, a resident of Talad Yai in Doi Saket, confessed to police after his capture that he had gotten very drunk, entered the girls’ toilet at Maedokdaeng School in Cheongdoi, Doi Saket and grabbed the 7 year old girl who had come in to use the toilet. He hit her head against the wall, knocking her unconscious before taking her on his motorbike to his home where he raped the girl repeatedly.

When she regained consciousness, he drove her back to the school where he left her. However, the police had already been informed of the missing girl when blood had been found in the girls’ restroom and they followed the man and arrested him about 2 kilometers from the school.

The girl was taken to Nakhon Ping Hospital where she is undergoing treatment for her injuries; however police said she is still extremely traumatized by the incident and is being kept under close supervision by the medical team at the hospital.

Suchart had recently been released from jail after arrest on a drug charge.

Suspected food poisoning outbreak in Lampang

Students from Boonyawat School fell ill; public health officials
are investigating to determine the source of the food poisoning.

Thaweerat Pensalaphan

200 students from Boonyawat School in Lampang were admitted to area hospitals for suspected food poisoning on February 17 after they fell ill with nausea and vomiting, public health officials reported.

While most of the students who fell ill had eaten from stalls in front of the school, some had eaten in the school. The students fell ill a few at a time, so that it took officials some time to determine that it was an outbreak.

Public health officials are investigating to determine the cause of the outbreak. Samples of food have been sent to the lab for testing and results are due in today.

Northern Thai economy continues to expand

Bank of Thailand’s Senior Director Sathorn Thopothai reports on the Northern economy.

Jittarporn Charasrum

The economic conditions for the Northern region continued to expand during the last quarter of 2010, Senior Director Sathorn Tophothai of the Bank of Thailand said at a press conference held earlier this month.

The economic growth seen in December 2010 still continues to this year, according to the BoT, Northern region branch’s high-ranking officials, adding that the export and tourism sectors were mostly favorable.

“Domestic demand has slowed down and industrial production has reduced in volume when compared to the same period last year”, he said. He added that economic stability in general remained satisfactory and the current account is in a surplus and the international currency reserves remained stable. “However, the inflation rate continues to grow,” he noted.

Economic expansion late last year saw foreign demand as an important factor. Export volume was $US 17,220 million, an increase of 18.6 percent when compared to the same period last year. Imports worth $US 15,911 million were up by 8.8 percent from the same period last year in December, 2010.

Manufacturing production remained in a decline with the Manufacturing Production Index down by 2.5 percent when compared to the same period last year. Major Crops Production Index continued to expand with rice production increasing and rubber and cassava seeing increasing prices.

Despite the serious mid-year drought, demand for agricultural products remain high and therefore farm prices remained favorable, with farm income increasing by 19.5 percent when compared with the same period of last year, Sathorn noted.

Domestic demand expanded at a slower rate from the previous month. Inflation has remained high, and in the North rose by 3.1 percent, lower than in the previous month. However, prices of food and beverages, such as sticky rice, fresh fruits and vegetables remained high.

Demand for employment in the North still continued to expand, increasing mainly in the field of retail and wholesale, hotels and restaurants.

The tourism sector continues to expand with 1.8 million foreign tourists visiting the country, mostly from China, South Asia, and Russia and with the hotel occupancy rate at 58.2 by average, higher than the previous months.

The key factors to help drive Northern Thailand’s economic growth were domestic and foreign tourists visiting the Northern region, the amount of VAT collected from hotels and restaurants, the arrival number of air passengers, and hotel occupancy rates, Senior Director Sunthorn noted.
“The unemployment rate stood at low level with a rate of 0.17 percent,” he concluded.

Meet the Consuls

Voluntary Regional Irish Representative in Chiang Mai

By Shana Kongmun

Annette Kunigagon, an old Chiang Mai hand hailing originally from Dublin, and still retaining a hint of the lovely lilt of her native country, she has called Chiang Mai home for 22 years. With a 12 year old daughter and her well known guest house and eco-tours, Eagle House, her ties to Chiang Mai seem unbreakable.

Annette originally came to Chiang Mai as a tourist, passing through after working in Australia. She loved it so much she worked for a few years to save some money and moved here in 1988. Never really looking back. She started a tour company originally but then expanded into the guesthouse she still owns, saying, “I wanted to meet people and get to know them. To help them enjoy their experience and Chiang Mai and to get guests more interested in Thai culture and language.”

She said that her role as the Voluntary Regional Representative in Chiang Mai for Ireland for the past 12 years has kept her quite busy since there is no embassy in Thailand. While she can offer no visas or consular services, she does aid Irish citizens in need, often receiving late night phone calls from families back home. She helps families deal with accidents and even death, counseling the family, helping them with death certificates and managing the Thai bureaucracy and hospital systems. She is often contacted by hospitals, relatives or the Department of Foreign Affairs back in Ireland. She noted that there are two other representatives in Thailand, one in Phuket and one in Bangkok. She added that most people don’t even realize there is no Embassy in Thailand and that the Voluntary Representatives are their only representatives from home.

She said one of her main concerns is to help people navigate the system and to understand how things work in Thailand, the Thai authorities are very concerned over the deaths of foreigners, she added, stating that they want to make sure all paperwork is correct so as not to cause any international incidents. This tends to confuse and upset bereaved families and she hopes that her understanding of the language and the way things work can ease people’s minds.

While she cannot offer visa services and the nearest Embassy is in Malaysia, she noted that there is a website where this information is available and she encourages all Irish nationals or those wishing to visit Ireland to check there first;

After 22 years in Chiang Mai it wasn’t too hard for her to pinpoint the one thing she loved the most, “the local people here, the shoemaker down the road, the weaving ladies on the street. Mrs. Kasem of the Kasem store, she is such an icon for Chiang Mai.” She added that these people are what make Chiang Mai unique.
Annette can be reached at Eagle House.Tel: 053-874-126.

American businessman arrested for drugs

American Robert Houge was arrested by Immigration Police
 on the possession of drugs with the intent to sell.

Nopiwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai Immigration Police charged a long term American resident of Chiang Mai with the possession of drugs with the intent to sell after, acting on a tip-off they issued a search warrant and raided Spunky’s restaurant on Chang Moi road belonging to the suspect and his wife on February 9, 2011.

U.S. citizen, Robert Wayne Houge, 48 and his wife, Thai citizen, Nathaya Wongdaeng, were arrested after the search yielded 10 kg of marijuana and 6.5kg of opium which was being made up into candies for sale for 500 baht each.

The police found blocks of marijuana in the refrigerator, and in the counter and packed into boxes on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the shop. The estimated value of the drugs was at 500,000 baht.

The suspect said he used to work for a private company that maintained missile weapons systems for the U.S. Army before moving to Thailand some 11 years ago when he married his wife. He said they sold the regular candy at 50 baht each while the candy with drugs was sold for 500 baht. Police estimate they sold about 100 of the drug filled candies a day.

Immigration Investigative Police Pol. Lt. Col. Udom Suwannalekha believed the couple had been selling drugs to foreign tourists for quite some time. The suspect denied the charges and he has been detained at the Muang Chiang Mai Police Station for further questioning and legal action. After that, his permission to stay will be revoked and he would be blacklisted from entering the country.


Lampang faces early drought

The Maewang River in Lampang is already drying up in one
of the earliest and hardest hit drought affected areas in Lampang.

Thaweerat Pensalaphan

Six districts in the province are facing an early drought Lampang Governor Athikhom Supannapong, said this week. He then signed a public emergency announcement declaring the 6 districts as a disaster area in what is looking to be one of the earliest droughts to hit the province in years.

Maetha, Sobprab, Ngao, Jaehom, Sermngarm, and Wang Nuea Districts were named in the decree out of a total of 13 Lampang provinces.

“Because water in the natural water resources has dried up, the worst hit area is in Wangnua district where the Maewang River is drying up.”

He stressed that this year’s drought comes earlier than normal. He has assigned Lampang authorities to dispatch teams to help relieve affected villagers. He added that the disaster area covers 38 tambons and will affect 92,835 people. Around 60,000 rai of farmland in the six districts is expected to be severely hit.

He said that government help is urgent and they will help the victims as quickly as possible.

Prison drug raid in Mae Hong Son

A search of the prisoners on February 8, 2011
 in Mae Hong Son yielded no drugs amongst the prisoners.

Khajohn Boonpath

Governor Kamthorn Thavornsatit led about 50 border patrol, drugs suppression and Mae Hong Son Police in a raid on the prison in Mae Hong Son on February 8 after concern that the prisoners, many of them hardened criminals from Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Phrae Provinces were using drugs. However, the search of 525 inmates, 472 men and 53 women, by police, prison officials and drug sniffing dogs, yielded no drugs.
Ms. Uraiwan Chantawong, Commander of the Prison, noted that most of the prisoners remanded there were sent due to bad behavior in provincial prisons.

Chiang Mai Red shirts head to Bangkok

Chiang Mai Mail online reporters

Hundreds of red-shirted supporters from Rak Chiang Mai 51 gathered at Waroros Hotel, City Hall, and Krubah Srivichai Statue before traveling to Bangkok Saturday and Sunday. The gathering was led by Worawut Rujnapinant and Montri Phuwanitch, who also facilitated travel to Bangkok.

Chiang Mai red-shirts are expected to join the mass rallies in front of the Criminal Court and the Democracy Monument by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) on Sunday to call for the release of UDD leaders and other red-shirt members detained at Bangkok Remand prison according to one of the red shirt leaders.

Travelling in more than 10 buses and personal cars, more took the train down as well. Before departing, Phra Khru Suthep Sithikhun or Luang Por Phanthewa, the abbot of Wat Sri Boonruang, presided over the release religious ceremony for the Rak Chiang Mai Group members, so as to bring good luck and victory for them.

4th Thai-Lao Friendship bridge planned in Chiang Rai

The newly-proposed 4th Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge being planned for construction work
across the Mekong River in Chiang Rai soon will, when completed, further link China,
Laos and Thailand for trade and travel in the Great Mekong Sub-region countries.

Phitsanu Thepthong

The newly- proposed 4th Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge which will be built across the Mekong River in Chiang Rai soon will, when completed, further link China, Laos and Thailand for trade and travel in the Great Mekong Sub-region countries.

Viroon Kumpilo, President of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce said that the auction for the construction contract of the new bridge over the Mekong River was held last year. “The cost of the bridge is estimated at approximately 1,400 million baht, and will be equally by the Chinese and Thai governments,” he told the Chiang Mai Mail.

When completed, the project, as part of the North-South Economic Corridor International Bridge Project, will link Hueisay of Bo Keo in Laos and Chiang Khong district in Chiang Rai. Construction work is expected to start in March and President Viroon noted that the ground breaking ceremony has already been scheduled.

“It will connect with Route 3 A, (East), running between Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Kunming, South China and would benefit commercial traffic between China and Thailand through Laos’s Laungnamtha province,” he remarked.

The new bridge will be located at Ban Don Maha Wan, Chiang Khong and Ban Don Khee Nok, Hueisay, Bo Keo. President Viroon expects that both the import of lignite from Laos and the export of Thai consumer goods will be stimulated by the new route. Laos ‘Vientiane Times’ newspaper quoted Thaworn Worabutre, the deputy director of the bridge construction project, as saying that the construction work for the 480 meter - long bridge linking Hueisai and Chiang Khong, will take about 30 months long to finish.

“The 4th bridge construction, when finished will link Thailand via Laos and connect to South China with a 245 kilometers long road,” he pointed out. The CR5-KT Group of China and Krung Thon Engineering of Thailand were granted the construction contract for the estimated $40 million project, each country will be contributing about 700 million baht.

The 3rd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nakhon Phanom is due to be finished later this year, already near 70 percent completion, it is scheduled for opening in November linking Nakhon Phanom with Khamuan District in Laos.

The second Thai-Lao Bridge, linking Mukdahan and Savannakhet has been open since 2006. With more than 5,000 vehicles daily, revenues generated from fee collection averages about 60,000 baht a day. The first Thai- Lao Bridge between Nong Khai and Vientiane was opened for public use several years ago.

Chiang Rai border trade with Myanmar and Laos from January –November 2010 was valued at 18,273.10 million baht with exports worth 15,509.86 million baht and imports valued at 2,763.24 million baht.

Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce President Viroon noted that the Lao government has been improving the roads as well as the infrastructure to make business travel more convenient.
“After completion of the bridge these improvements will bring great benefits to the area in terms of the flow of cross- border trade, transportation and logistics,” he remarked.


Peace Walk planned in Chiang Mai

Organizing committee members meet to discuss the upcoming Peace Walk

An LGBT Peace Walk is scheduled for Sunday, February 20 from 3 Kings Monument at 3 p.m. to Central Kad Suan Kaew where a rally against violence will be held. Exhibitions, shows and performances are scheduled for the afternoon event.

Speakers include Dr. Pra Maha Boonchway of Maha Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Kenneth Dobson of the Office of the President, Payap University, Mr. Aung Myo Min, Director of Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Khun Kamonsaet Kainkanlurang, Seceratary of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand and other representatives from the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) community.

The evening will conclude with the release of hot air balloons at 9:30 p.m.

Meet the Consuls

The Honorary Consul of Canada

Khun Nit Wangvivat is a long standing member of the Chiang Mai community, and while not a native, he has adopted it as his home since he moved here with his Chiang Mai native bride 43 years ago.
A long standing consul, he has been the Honorary Consul for Canada since 1995 and was happy to point out that 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Canada. He said that both he and Canadian Ambassador to Thailand Ron Hoffman stress the importance of strengthening those ties in investment, education and more.

Khun Nit is one of those deceptively youthful seeming men, a robust 78 years old; he noted he may consider retiring at 80. “It’s enough I think, but then I will still do some work part time, you must keep your mind active.” So, then again, we may still seen Khun Nit in the role of Honorary Consul for some years to come!

A native Bangkokian, he attended the well known Assumption College before earning his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at Chulalongkorn and a Masters at the University of Texas in Austin. “My father was an electrical engineer; he travelled from China to Europe on a ship to study in Belgium and ended up in Thailand for work. I followed in my father’s footsteps and studied electrical engineering.”

He joined his wife’s family firm, first selling tobacco but they switched and went into tea. He pointed out the lovely green tea pot that he had just poured his tea from and noted that they also owned Thai Celadon out in San Kamphaeng, producing the distinctive celadon pottery. Along with Siam Nissan and a jewelry exporting factory in Lamphun, this busy former President of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce has also served as President of the Lanna Community College, helped to draft the 1997 Constitution and served as President of joint Thai-Canadian venture to help small start ups.

He said the Canadian Ambassador visited Chiang Mai in 1993 with a business team to meet area businessmen and, as President of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce; he got to know him quite well. Upon returning to Bangkok, Khun Nit said the Ambassador called him up, out of the blue as it was to him, to ask him to serve as Honorary Canadian Consul. He said it took the Canadian government to approve it but he’s been serving as Honorary Consul ever since.

The Canadian Consulate, on Superhighway 11 near the intersection with Highway 1317, (Mahidol Road) offers notarial services such as income certification. Thais interested in applying for a visa to visit Canada must do it on line at, complete the application online ( 4-5 pages) and print them out. Submission with other supporting documents either in person or by mail to the Embassy in Bangkok.

Key responsibilities include promoting educational exchange, adding that they offer information on Universities and schools in Canada for those interested in going to school there, as well as trade in the region. He said the Canadian government is keen to expand trade with Thailand, adding that Canada exports 600 million Canadian dollars to Thailand but Thai exports to Canada are about 3 times that. He noted that the Nova Scotia Bank has invested heavily in Thailand and that PTT has investments in Alberta.

He said he feels his most important role, however, is to aid Canadians in Chiang Mai of which there are about 500. “Over the years, we have seen about half of them, I think.” Consul Nit notes that they visit Canadians both in the hospital and in police custody.

Finally, after 43 years of living in Chiang Mai he said he really loves the atmosphere of the city, a small city but with so many amenities, he understands why Canadians come here to live. “It has the same things Bangkok has, but on a smaller scale and none of the stress or crowds. The people are very friendly and the countryside is nearby and beautiful. I came here with my wife and liked it so much I stayed.”