OF UNIVERSITY AND REFINEMENT
TheTwo Chiang Mai University graduates have suddenly sprung to international
prominence in the diverse fields of internet discussion groups and wine
Boontham Namhongsa, 24 year old son of a poor Nong Khai farmer and now
a communications student in Hawaii, is breathing new life into tourism
and other topics as moderator of the Yahoogroup's Asean Tourism Online
Forum. Excellent English, a good grasp of the topic and a friendly, relaxed
tone have brought Boontham high praise from professionals. He attends the
Hawaii Pacific University under the sponsorship of Thomas Steinmetz, a
destination marketing consultant who met him at CMU. Read him at e-mail:
Meanwhile Prayut Plangbunta has become Thailand's first ever native
wine producer, being totally responsible for the 2,000 rai Boon Rawd Vinery
in Khao Yai. Prayut had to learn German to take his advanced international
qualifications there and now grows 5 types of grape used in both red and
white Thai wines.
LOCAL ARREST IN KIRSTY CASE
Stories in 'The Nation' and some UK newspapers last month predicting
an imminent Chiangmai arrest in the Aree Guest House rape-murder case seemed
unfounded at our time of going to press.
British police had returned DNA forensic evidence to Thailand after
examining it in Wales, home of 23 year old back-packer Kirsty Jones who
died at the local guest house 19 months ago. The only firm new fact that
seemed to accompany the British police visit was that DNA showed the culprit
must have been an Asian man.
WILL LOSE THEIR LICENSES?
Traffic Police signs
now lists local driver's offences
Chiangmai Traffic Police have promised a crack down on driving offenders
following the announcement that the Province's roads were the 3rd most
dangerous in the land over the New Year holidays, which claimed a national
death toll of 501 and almost 30,000 injuries.
Between December 27th and January 2nd almost 400 men and over 100 women
died, an average of 4 deaths and 215 injuries per hour, the vast majority
caused by drunk and reckless motorcyclists. The Public Health Minister's
figures gave Chiangmai a tally of 1,000 injuries, beaten only by Nakhon
Ratchasima and Nakhon Sawan.
The figures were far worse than last year and over double those recorded
in any typical non holiday period. The Minister urged more vigilance in
supressing drink-driving and enforcement of crash helmet and seat belt
Now it is promised that arrests will be recorded on a computer, that
first offenders can lose their licences for 60 days for some offences;
90 days and compulsory driver training for second-time law breakers - and
the licences will be revoked unless they can re-pass the driving test.
WILL GET THE RED CARPET?
An unsuspecting tourist will be given the VIP treatment at Bangkok airport
in November when he or she is counted in as Thailand's 10 millionth visitor
The razzamatazz will be only a tiny slice of the 6 billion baht allocated
by the government to boost tourist arrivals this year by 6% to the Tourism
Authority of Thailand's target of 10.4 million.
Last year's figures were expected to peak at 4%, half the total hoped
for prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks in the USA. Growth up
to then had been well on track at 7.23%.
Tourism & culture together
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism will be up and running by October,
along with 16 other ministries and 2 bureaus, Deputy Prime Minister Pongpol
Adireksarn has announced.
Thailand's second biggest earner after agriculture, tourism, at last
gets Ministry status in the big national admin reform - which will also
pull in agencies which currently handle art and cultural affairs under
the Ministry of Education.
A couple were arrested at Mae Chan near Chiangrai at 4am on Christmas
Day with nearly a million methamphetamine pills in a hidden compartment
of their pick up. The 40 year old driver said a Mae Sai man had paid him
200,000 baht to deliver the pills to Bangkok. A woman with him was the
widow of a drugs suspect who shot himself 4 months ago in Mae Sai as police
were about to search his house. The pills sell in Bangkok for around 100
On December 26th and 28th, co-ordinated police raids in Chiangmai, Chiangrai
and Bangkok siezed assets worth over 200 million baht. A Chiangmai computer
shop was said to be a 'front' to launder money for a pro-Rangoon Wa Army
commander who sells methamphetamines into Thailand. Police also siezed
property from a petrol station and flower shop in Mae Sai.
The Thai Interior Minister described the Wa as "the world's largest
drug army". Under a new Thai law, the owners of the assets have 3
months in which to prove that they were acquired legally.
A border patrol camp at Mae Chan will be the site of a new 20 million
baht drug rehabilitation centre to help Chiangrai Province's estimated
IN NORTHERN FORESTS
Four northern re-forested areas are among 10 nation-wide to be turned
into eco-tourism resorts, says Deputy Agriculture Minister Prapat Panyachatraksa.
"Green tourism businesses" will be developed in Mae Hor Phra,
Mae Jam and Ban Wat Chan, Chiangmai and in Tungkwian, Lampang.
'The Nation' reported in mid January that the plan comes from the Forest
Industry Organisation - which also plans to solve its liquidity problems
by seeking a 50 million baht loan from Krung Thai Bank.
JUST LIKE THE REAL THING?
Click for larger photograph
Almost! This metal bas relief of a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen actually
represents an aircraft of the 64th Sentai, wich was stationed here at Chiangmai.
Framed in dark Thai timber, each piece is numbered and only 1000 pieces
will ever be produced. Made by Thai craftsmen with care.
Measurement: 24 x 15 x 3.5 cm
PRICE: 1000 BAHT
PAYMENT CAN BE MADE ONLINE
VISA & MASTER CARD WELCOME
WILL THE BANYAN BE?
New addition to the
Chaiyapoom Road sky-line
A third international hotel chain is newly investing in Chiangmai, this
time Singapore-based Banyan Tree Holding which also plans new properties
in Pattaya and Hua Hin. The northern hotel would be built from scratch
during the next 4 years as the company image required a unique architectural
design, announced their vice president.
"We've surveyed tourist destinations and found that Chiangmai is
one of the favourite places to go apart from Phuket" he added. Comprising
a maximum of only 100 rooms, no location for the hotel was given.
Another group is investing in a small, exclusive hotel in a Thai style
teak house, while the multi-storey tower block on Chaiyapoom Road near
Thapae Gate is only weeks away from completion. Also at Thapae Gate the
Top North Hotel, which has been closed for several years, is re-opening
after a complete refurbishment.
IS THICKER THAN WATER
And harder to come by when you are in dire need! Stocks of some groups
are running low in Chiangmai and westerners living here are asked to consider
becoming occasional donors. The groups A-negative and O-negative are particularly
in demand. If you know your own group and know you can safely give blood,
please register with Kathryn McDaniel of Community Church (tel 053 242860)
or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The life you save may be your own!
OF THE FUTURE
· Chiangmai's Flower Festival, centred on Thapae Gate
and Buak Hard Park, runs from February 1st to 3rd.
· Expect fire-crackers, dragon dancers and a lot of loud, colourful,
fascinating partying round Worawat Market before and during Chinese
New Year, February 12th.
· A talk on 'The Mekong Nobody Knows' will be given on
February 12th at 7.30pm by Steve Van Beek at the Informal Northern Thai
Group. Venue as usual is Alliance Francaise, Charoenprathet Road. Transport
enthusiasts should note that the March 12th talk is 'The Railways of
Thailand' by Robert M.Boer.
· Open until February 15th at the Chiang Mai University Art
Museum, Nimmanhemin Road, is 'Oman Robot' by Israeli artist Franeis
Wittenberger. Modern communications and art together is the theme,
9.00am to 5.00pm the opening hours.
· One of the most important annual Buddha days, February 26th,
Maha Bucha Day, is a national holiday and all banks, government
offices and post offices (except the one at the airport) will be closed.