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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Kingdom mourns as elephant twin Jum dies

Yaba trafficker has “gift” of drugs

Speeding 10-wheeler kills motorcyclist on back roads

Swiss House Restaurant owner busted

Tourists discover man’s body hanging from tree

High-level Thai-Malaysian military leaders meet in Pattaya

Region 3 health officials meet to discuss HIV

Karaoke bars still thrive in Pattaya

Collecting water treatment bills still on hold

Kingdom mourns as elephant twin Jum dies

Cause of death still unknown

Jum, one of the twin elephants kept at Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Sri Racha, died of mysterious causes on March 16. Sympathy cards have been pouring in from all over the nation.

The twin female elephants Jum and Jim were the only pair of twins known to exist in captivity. Jum, the older twin at seven years, six months and 17 days, became violently ill with unexplainable symptoms last week and died on March 16. Veterinarians are perplexed and have yet to determine the cause of the rare elephant’s demise.

Jum with Jim before her untimely death last week at the age of 7.

The twin elephants were popular attractions with tourists at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo. A special birthday party was prepared for them each year, with many other elephants joining in the celebration. The twin elephants drew large crowds wherever they went and brought much prestige and notoriety to Thailand.

Jum and Jim were designated as the mascots during the 13th Asian Games and became the country’s symbol as mascots for the Amazing Thailand tourism campaign in 1998-1999.

The twin elephants were born on August 27, 1993 at Kwae River Bridge in Kanchanaburi Province. The mother of the twins, Phang Lam Duan, is from the Surin area and gave birth to Jum first at 6 a.m. Jim was born 15 minutes later.

Twin elephant births are not only very rare, but are also very dangerous to the mother elephant’s health, in part due to the amount of food required during pregnancy. Following the births the twin’s health was also a major concern because the mother was without milk.

The twin elephants were supported by the generosity of the Ban Pu Company Ltd. who bought Jum and Jim for one million baht and presented them to the Khao Kheow Open Zoo to look after in 1994.

Khao Kheow Open Zoo director Tanaphat Pongpamorn held a press conference on March 18 to release details of the events leading up the elephant’s death. The zoo’s veterinarian, Wanchai Tanwatana reported that Jum’s symptoms included vomiting clear fluid and excessive urination, and she became violent, not allowing anyone, including her mahout Un Salangam, to come near.

Un reported the strange behavior and other symptoms to the zoo veterinarian early in the morning on March 16. Veterinarians were unsure how to handle the situation, and consulted each other trying to identify the cause. In the early afternoon the symptoms intensified and Jum was unable to stand up. Saline solutions were given and blood samples taken but by 5 p.m. it was too late, the elephant succumbed to the mysterious ailment that took her life.

The startling death of the beloved elephant was especially difficult for the sister elephant Jim, who is reportedly in mourning.

Before burying the elephant, tissue samples were taken for further examination to identify the cause of death. Tanaphat Pongpamorn said it was important to ascertain what caused the death, and insured there was no danger to other animals at the zoo.

On March 19, Tanaphat announced that an investigative committee was formed after suspicions indicated deliberate poisoning might have been involved. The investigation is expected to surface answers within the week. Otherwise, the present consensus among the zoo’s veterinarians is that the death was brought on by colic caused by a large amount of intestinal gas creating severe abdominal pain resulting in a seizure.

The burial place will be kept isolated until the death is fully understood.

In the meantime the zoo director, Tanaphat said that activities at the zoo would continue as usual.

Preparations for funeral services are underway, including elaborate ritual ceremonies. Plans of commemorating the life of Jum and twin sister Jim on video and other media are being preserved at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo.

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Yaba trafficker has “gift” of drugs

Arrested with 12,000 methamphetamine pills inside gift wrapped box

Mrs. Anchalee (Jaew) Piraphorn, age 48, was conspicuously clutching a gift-wrapped box when police raided her secluded hut last week. She said the box was a birthday present for a friend, but when police opened it and looked inside they found 60 small plastic bags with 200 methamphetamine pills in each, totaling 12,000 yaba pills.

Mrs. Anchalee’s gift of drugs will get no further than the police evidence vault.

Banglamung Police raided Anchalee’s house after learning drugs were freely being sold from her makeshift hut in the middle of cultivated rice paddies in Moo 6, Huay Yai.

Banglamung police first surrounded the hut, then sent in undercover police to try and make a purchase. Once the undercover police had finished their part of the job, they signaled for the other police officers to advance on the drug agent.

Anchalee admitted to selling the drugs for the past year. She told police she only knew her supplier as “Lek”, an agent from Rayong. Anchalee was charged with peddling the class 1 illegal narcotics.

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Speeding 10-wheeler kills motorcyclist on back roads

Vanishing truck driver stunt follows

Reporter: Boonlua Chatree

The body of an 18-year old named Samruay Klomiam was found lying on the road behind Wat Sutthawas in Soi Nern Plab Wan. The young motorcyclist was the victim of a 10-wheel truck that was racing along the back roads on the late afternoon of March 15. Samruay’s mangled body and his wrecked motorbike were wedged under the old model Isuzu truck. The truck driver pulled the mysterious and magical disappearing act often encountered during road accidents in Thailand.

Samruay’s mangled body and his wrecked motorbike were wedged under the old model Isuzu truck. Photo by Damri Muangkaew

Witnesses told Banglamung police that the truck was driving at a high rate of speed on the narrow back road when it came up behind Samruay, who was driving slowly on the motorbike. The truck swerved out to pass Samruay, but an on-coming motorbike prevented the truck from completing the pass. The truck driver then turned back into his lane, averting the oncoming motorist but running down the slow moving motorbike driven by Samruay.

Sawang Boriboon body snatchers transferred the body to Banglamung Hospital for relatives to arrange funeral services.

The 10-wheel truck was impounded and police are tracking down the driver.

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Swiss House Restaurant owner busted

Wanted in Switzerland for drug charges

Reporter: Vichan Pladplueng

Andreas Wenger, a 37-year old Swiss national wanted on drug related charges in Switzerland was arrested at his Swiss House Restaurant on South Pattaya’s Soi Diamond at 11.00 p.m. on March 15.

Andreas Wenger wanted on drug charges in Switzerland, was arrested at his Swiss House Restaurant on South Pattaya’s Soi Diamond.

Police from the Pattaya Municipal Police Foreign Crime Suppression Center, led by Pol. Lt. Col. Pirom Preeyakorn and Pattaya Tourist Police Department 3’s Pol. Maj. Noradech Klomtuksing made the arrest following embassy requests coordinated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior.

The Swiss House was financed by Wenger and in his Thai girlfriend’s name. He was walking inside the restaurant when police arrived and was in possession of a fake passport under the name of Andrew Brown.

Wenger later admitted to police that he was dodging drug-related charges in Switzerland and entered Thailand nine years ago on 11 November 1992. When his Swiss passport expired he obtained the falsified passport rather than contacting the embassy for renewal and risking discovery. Wenger said the fake passport was obtained in Pattaya from a German only identified as Heise.

Wenger is still in custody at the Pattaya municipal police station awaiting legal proceedings. He’s been charged with illegally residing in the Kingdom and will be turned over to Swiss authorities.

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Tourists discover man’s body hanging from tree

Baht bus driver commits suicide

Reporters: Vichan Pladplueng and Chakrapong Akkaranant

An undisclosed number of foreign tourists, walking to a secluded beach in Naklua on March 14, came upon a gruesome sight. The body of Chet Daoreram, a 35-year-old resident from Buriram, was hanging from a tree with a strand of wire fastened around his neck.

Daoreram had been employed as a baht bus driver in Pattaya. His dark blue pick-up was parked close by.

The tourists notified Pattaya Municipal Police, who arrived on the scene, which was down the street from the Riviera Hotel.

Police found a whiskey glass and pen in the back of the baht bus, and a suicide note nearby. The note was addressed to a respected individual in Pattaya and asked the person’s forgiveness. It also described personal problems concerning the man’s wife and the pick-up truck, and requested the circumstances be explained to his parents.

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High-level Thai-Malaysian military leaders meet in Pattaya

Discuss contraband and drug trafficking issues

Reporter: Chakrapong Akkaranant and Vichan Pladplueng

The 7th Thai-Malaysian High Level Military “Signing Ceremony” took place on March 14 at the Pattaya Montien Hotel. Supreme Commander General Sampao Chusri met with his counterpart General Tansri Datoseree from Malaysia.

Thai Supreme Commander General Sampao Chusri met with General Tansri Datoseree from Malaysia at the 7th Thai-Malaysian High Level Military “Signing Ceremony” on March 14 in Pattaya.

In addition to signing mutual agreements the leaders discussed drafting policies to battle contraband trade and drug trafficking along the border.

The drug problem was specified as a main concern of the new government and General Sampao said drug trafficking and contraband crossing the Thai-Malaysia border were problems causing both countries to suffer economically and socially.

The new Thaksin government’s emphasis on the country’s drug problem was discussed, as was enlisting aid from Malaysia, which was illustrated as a positive step in the right direction to end the spread of drug addiction in both countries.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister General Chavalit Yongchiyudh and other high level military officers are scheduled to meet again with their Malaysian counterparts at an upcoming conference in Penang.

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Region 3 health officials meet to discuss HIV

Continue to be vague

Reporter: Chakrapong Akkaranant

Officials from the Health Ministry’s Department of Communicable Disease Control held a regional conference at the Pattaya Town in Town Hotel on March 13. The official purpose of the conference was to update information on AIDS and report on HIV monitoring programs.

However, officials continue to be vague, and no real groundbreaking news surfaced from the conference.

Doctor Thongchai Thawichachat, Health Ministry Inspector spoke to health workers at the Health Ministry’s Department of Communicable Disease Control regional conference on March 13.

The officials at the conference reiterated that AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, continues to spread, and the HIV virus causing AIDS represents an alarming and dreadful fear that has yet to subside as the search for an effective cure continues.

Doctor Thongchai Thawichachat, Health Ministry Inspector, spoke of the HIV monitoring program that first started collecting data in 14 provinces in 1989, and which later expanded and now covers all 76 provinces, but did not release any data from the program.

He said the various agencies in the government and private sector attacking the problem have achieved some positive results in containing the problem in basic areas such as military recruits, pregnant women, male and female prostitutes and drug addicts. However, no official statistics were released as to exactly what positive results had been achieved.

Doctor Thongchai went on to say that the problem is far from being resolved and requires constant emphasis in every community. He also said that community program objectives need to be periodically revised.

Officials at the conference boasted that more attention is being directed at changing individual attitudes, saying that the use of AIDS prevention campaigns continually reminds the public of the dangers involved.

The Health Ministry is stressing improvements be made at all levels of government, and that more efficient operation with new medical equipment and advanced training be made available to health workers in the field of AIDS research.

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Karaoke bars still thrive in Pattaya

Despite National Police Bureau orders for decisive action

Director-General of the National Police Bureau Pol. Gen. Pornsak Durongkavibulya issued orders in mid-February directing police units all over the country to crack down on karaoke bars. Pol. Gen. Pornsak’s remarks and orders were a response to complaints from residents and tourists around the country complaining about the loud noise in some cases continuing 24 hours a day.

However, in Pattaya the complaints continue to register and karaoke bars in makeshift structures continue popping up throughout the city as if no restrictions applied.

No authorization to build, no permits to operate and no authorization to operate entertainment equipment were given as justification enough to close down karaoke bars, in addition to local police conducting inspections and taking appropriate action on bars operating outside of prescribed hours.

Officials from Pattaya’s city maintenance office said most of the makeshift businesses were on rented property where operators were not interested in investing large sums, and therefore avoided obtaining required permits. The makeshift structures usually go up on weekends and holidays, using the congestion to conceal new construction activity, specifically on Pattaya 3rd Road.

The mayor has issued instructions to the city maintenance office to conduct inspections, improve the situation, and fine and arrest violators, but the process has yet to achieve any success due to insufficient laws and regulations to control the nuisance activity.

Thus far the city is relying on tax regulations, municipal building codes and fire regulations to enforce some controls over the makeshift businesses. However, since warnings are usually given prior to inspections, owners are rarely found on the premises. Usually a disinterested caretaker or dishwasher is forced to listen to city officials’ pleas for cooperation in controlling late-night noise.

Many of the owners of the late night makeshift karaoke bars are reportedly “khaki-clad” or unperturbed for one reason or another. The problem will probably end only when karaoke becomes outmoded, and don’t bank on zoning restrictions anytime soon.

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Collecting water treatment bills still on hold

Awaiting city decisions and ministry approval

Pattaya City states it is unable to collect dues for waster water treatment because of lack of public understanding. And it is no small wonder why, as even the city is confused over how to go about collecting for usage, or even who will be collecting.

Deputy mayor Wirawat Khakhai chaired a committee to review appropriate wastewater treatment plant user fees and the best method to collect them.

Pattaya’s 1.8 billion baht water treatment plant became operational last December. The city administration took charge of the facility but the city has not yet established a method for charging users for water treatment costs and is still undecided on who would oversee the overall operation.

The mayor designated a deputy mayor, Wirawat Khakhai, to chair a committee to review appropriate user fees and the best method to collect the cost for operating the plant at its full potential.

One possible new payment system to be implemented to make it easier for the public could be using old fashioned meters but setting them on different rates for different sizes of establishments.

The favored plan under consideration would charge users an additional fee for 80% of consumers’ water use to cover the 30-40 million baht annual cost to operate the plant. The initial plan assessed by the Macro Consultant Company was found to be insufficient, as only 15 million baht would be collected annually.

According to Wirawat, once the city decides whether to administer the plant’s operation internally or contract it out to a private company, final approval is required from both the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, and the National Environmental Commission. Another major concern pertains to fines and imprisonment for consumer non-compliance.

Wirawat said the plant is now releasing around 40,000 cubic meters of treated water with acceptable levels of biochemical oxygen, well within standards, into Pattaya Bay via the Naklua canal each day. The water treatment plant has the capability to treat up to 65,750 cubic meters of sewage water per day.

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