HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Officials to increase law enforcement in an attempt to reduce Songkran fatalities

Local elections this weekend

This year’s CARAT exercises announced in Sattahip

Tight security at music festival nips teen brawl in the bud

Sattahip Coast Guard storms fishing trawler, arresting captain and crew

US to review report on human rights situation in Thailand

Bay Watch

Sattahip Marines prepare for Iraq tour of duty

Good fortune shines on Nong Nooch as show elephant gives birth in front of tourists

M16 found stashed behind local temple

Shocking lesson for illegal road racers

Foreign resident found dead in his apartment

Police briefs

Ride-by gang shoots youth in the face

Officials to increase law enforcement in an attempt to reduce Songkran fatalities

Police stocking up on breathalyzers and radar guns

Veerachai Somchart

On average, at least 36 people die on Thailand’s roads every 24 hours. This equates to 1.5 deaths per hour, totaling a staggering 13,000 fatalities per year. Over 70 percent of the deaths are alcohol and speed related, especially during festivals such as Songkran.

Deputy Prime Minister Jaturon Chaisaeng released these frightening statistics at a recent eastern region policy meeting held at Pattaya’s Adriatic Hotel.

The deputy PM, who is responsible for the eastern region, met with law enforcement, government health and senior officials from the four eastern provinces of Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat to deliver the news and announce policies handed down by the central office.

Taking a law enforcement approach, the deputy PM said, “I want to see a definitive drop in the road toll over this coming Songkran. The government has not set any goals, but is demanding that officers perform their duties and detain anyone found drunk driving.”

The central government has approved an extra 117 million baht in its budget to resolve the problem. A further 2,000 breathalyzer units will be purchased, and 30 million baht has been budgeted for radar guns and an increase in the number of Highway Patrol officers in areas and districts known to be danger zones.

Jaturon added, “The general public must obey the law to reduce the number of accidents, but it is up to officials to enforce traffic laws effectively.”

Pattaya Music Festival kicks off this weekend

Bars ordered to close during elections

Local elections for mayor and city council seats are being held this Saturday, March 27, and Chanatpong Juabmee, chairman of Pattaya’s Election Monitoring Committee, is urging all eligible voters to vote.

Chanatpong also said that NGO volunteers have been placed in each of the electorates to investigate and monitor anyone intending to run in the local elections. The stiff regulations designed to stamp out vote buying by way of support for local charities or foundations; cash donations, parties or promises of advertising are being carefully monitored to avoid impropriety.

The committee will announce the winners 1 to 2 weeks after the ballot boxes close, or, in a worst-case scenario, 1 to 2 months, in which they will inspect all votes and candidates for correctness. If impropriety is found the election will be re-run with the cost being paid by the perpetrator and legal proceedings will be invoked.

Note: By law, the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited from 6 p.m. Friday March 26 until midnight Saturday March 27. Please note that this law will be enforced, as many bar owners and managers learned the hard way during the last elections at the beginning of the month.

This year’s CARAT exercises announced in Sattahip

To run from June to October

Patcharapol Parnrak

The United States holds military exercises with Thai forces constantly throughout the year, and at least half of those are Navy exercises. However, the largest annual Navy exchange here begins this June and will continue through to October.

Rear Adm. Taweewut Pongphipat, Frigate 2 commander and Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn discuss this year’s upcoming exercises.

Rear Adm. Taweewut Pongphipat, Frigate 2 commander met with representatives from the Western Pacific Fleet headed up by Rear. Adm. Kevin Quinn, to discuss this year’s upcoming exercises at a meeting held at the Sattahip Navy base.

CARAT stands for Cooperation Afloat Readiness And Training and is aimed at improving skills, abilities and experience of all participating naval officers, particularly in the ever-changing field of technology and strategy.

Rear Adm. Taweewut Pongphipat said that this year’s exercises will be held from the end of June to around mid-October and will include harbor and sea phases, training exercises, weapons practice, dealing with land, air and sea attacks, and defense maneuvers, as well as community-based activities in the provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chantaburi.

The bilateral exercise also takes place in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines every summer.

Thai and US military officials are involved in planning for CARAT 2004.

Tight security at music festival nips teen brawl in the bud

Twenty hot-tempered youths cool off in jail

Boonlua Chatree

The increased security throughout this year’s Pattaya Music Festival proved very effective in reducing the number of incidents among hot-tempered youths, putting a halt to one potential mass brawl shortly after midnight on Saturday morning.

The extra security at this year’s music festival seemed to have paid off, as these 20 would-be brawlers learned the hard way.

Over 30 crime prevention volunteers and police broke up a fight in the crowded arena after plenty of alcohol, bad manners and big egos appeared to be the cause of the melee.

Twenty youths were arrested, effectively putting an end to the fight, with the young offenders being thrown in the Pattaya ‘monkey house’ to cool off their tempers and sober up.

The additional number of security personnel included volunteers, Pattaya, Banglamung and Sriracha police as well as Navy and Army personnel who kept a close eye on the masses as well as providing multiple checkpoints throughout the city to reduce the possibility of crime.

Despite mass traffic confusion in Pattaya, the number of criminal incidents, apart from a youth related shooting, was very minimal and provided a safe atmosphere for all in attendance, especially concerned residents.

Sattahip Coast Guard storms fishing trawler, arresting captain and crew

Once again, drama on the high seas

Boonlua Chatree

Regular Coast Guard patrols in the Sattahip Bay area netted a bootie of illegal foreign crewmembers and three Thai nationals. The fishing vessel was located approximately 1 nautical mile off the shores of Rarnkian Island when water police boarded the vessel.

Officers detained 17 Cambodian crew members without the appropriate work permits and charged them with illegal entry into the Kingdom, as well as failing to have relevant work permits.

The Thai vessel’s owner and 2 other crewmembers were also apprehended and charged with employing and harboring illegal foreign laborers. They were also charged with use of illegal fishing equipment and catching undersized fish. Come trial day, they’ll surely have a lot of explaining to do.

Further interrogation led to the arrest of another 13 Cambodians and another two Thai boat owners on similar charges. The foreigners were transferred to a Sattahip holding cell before being deported. Both vessels were impounded by coastal patrol agents.

US to review report on human rights situation in Thailand

The United States has pledged to review its report on the human rights situation in Thailand, conceding that it received inaccurate information, which had led to its allegation over gross human rights abuses by the Thai government during the country’s war on drugs last year, according to Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

Surakiart told reporters that Washington had admitted that its recent report on human rights abuses in Thailand concerning alleged 2,000 plus murders of drugs traders contained inaccuracies, and had promised to make amendments to its report, based on precise information and data obtained from the Thai government.

The remarks were made by US Minister for Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who paid an official visit to Thailand last week, said Surakiart.

The US minister also praised the Thai government’s economic policies, particularly those concerning its support of neighboring economies, saying that economic improvement would lead to a more stable security situation in the region, and a reduced drugs threat, according to the Thai foreign minister. (TNA)

Bay Watch

Tee many martoonies

No, this guy isn’t dead, just passed out dead drunk. He obviously doesn’t know when to say when. The piece of paper on his chest is a note, in the Thai language, left by someone with a sense of humor. Roughly translated it reads, “Look at me, I’m too drunk to get up.” I shudder to think about the hangover he had the next morning.

Sattahip Marines prepare for Iraq tour of duty

Only the best will go

Patcharpol Parnrak

Rear Admiral Sakdichai Ubondechprachruk, chief of staff, Royal Thai Marine Corps announced the approval from the Supreme Command that more Thai forces will join in the UN coalition forces in Iraq.

Vice Admiral Wirat Damrongjaroen, Royal Thai Marine Corps commander, and a revered monk perform ceremonies before sending troops on their mission to Iraq. During the ceremony, the vice-admiral also presented the men with medals of honor for service to their country and fellow man.

Naval surgeons, engineers, commissioned officers and warrant officers from the various military departments will travel to Iraq near the end of March to join in humanitarian activities, assisting with rebuilding and enforcement near the Iraq-Kuwait border and in Kabara.

Vice Admiral Wirat Damrongjaroen, Royal Thai Marine Corps commander revealed that over 100 troops have been selected to take part in the international effort to rebuild the war-torn country and that each person was put through a strict selection process to ensure that they would not crack under pressure and could withstand high temperatures.

Family situations were also taken into account, as the mission, which will replace some of the Thai forces, is quite dangerous due to local insurgence. Many of the troops have combat experience in places such East Timor and Sierra Leone.

Ceremonies were performed in Sattahip instilling each of the men with a sense of confidence and urgency in their duty so as to remain on guard at all times during their activities to avoid potential casualties in a hostile environment.

Good fortune shines on Nong Nooch as show elephant gives birth in front of tourists

Nearly a thousand lucky visitors witness rare scene

Patcharpol Parnrak

The birth of a baby is always a blessed event, but to watch an elephant give birth in public is a rare and unforgettable experience. Visitors to the Nong Nooch Gardens were witness to this amazing sight as Phang Ubol, a 34-year-old show elephant presented them with a rare glimpse into the miracle of life when she gave birth to a bouncing baby girl.

Phang Ubol lets out a sigh of relief as her newborn struggles to take its first few steps.

Elephants generally give birth in the dark, with no one, neither man nor beast, around to disturb them through the process. However, Phang Ubol carried her pregnancy to 20 months and gave birth at 9:44 in the morning, much to the awe of almost 1,000 visitors to the park.

Nong Nooch Gardens has been in business for over twenty years and has seen many new additions to their growing elephant population. As the park now enters its 8th cycle, according to ancient Chinese lore, this is an auspicious time, and the birth of the new cow adds a double dose of luck for the tourist park.

Phang Ubol’s mahout, Kaew Molingarn told reporters that Phang Ubol had mated with resident breeding elephant Plai Bird just under two years ago and that this was the female’s third baby, with only the first-born dying due to inexperience of the new mother some 12 years ago.

Sodawan Boonsiri, Nong Nooch general manager said, “This event couldn’t have come at a more auspicious time as the park is now in its 8th cycle. The birth of the new elephant is a sign of good fortune ahead, and many high profile business persons in Thailand believe it is a good omen.”

Sodawan also revealed that there are two more elephants due to give birth in the very near future. Plai Bird has obviously been busy.

M16 found stashed behind local temple

Lawn cutter discovers lethal weapon in plastic bag

Boonlua Chatree

Lawn mower man, Buaroy Kaewyou, 53, was busy cutting the grass near the Central Pattaya Temple when his mower became clogged. Bending down to remove a plastic bag in the blades he found an M16 rifle inside. Astonished, he immediately called police to remove the gun.

Police recovered this unloaded M16 assault rifle at a central Pattaya temple after the gardener ran over it with his lawnmower.

Officers on the scene inspected the gun to find that it was in perfect working order, but not loaded. They impounded the weapon and are attempting to locate the owner, who they suspect dumped it after an increase in police checkpoints around the city looking for such items often being carried by youths. However, police surmised the presence of such a weapon suggested it was more than likely going to be used for more devious means with disastrous results.

Shocking lesson for illegal road racers

The rising number of police victims as a result of illegal road racing has finally prompted law enforcement officials to turn to unorthodox methods in an attempt to prevent these unnecessary tragedies. Motorcyclists convicted for illegal racing will be sent to work in the hospital morgue to see for themselves the fatal consequences from these road races.

Director General of the Department of Probation Kittipong Kittayarak said that the offenders will be required to do community service and work in the Bangkok-based Ramathibodi Hospital morgue to see bodies of road racing victims. The idea behind the plan is that those who have engaged in such activities will find such awful scenes unbearable and refrain from repeating the same mistakes for fear of the negative consequences that might follow.

Kittipong added that the street racers would also be taken on visits where they will see for themselves the severe conditions in prison. These visits are aimed to frighten the street racers when they realize how harshly they will be punished by the law. The project will be carried out across the country, if it proves successful.

A tourist police officer was shot dead last week while he was driving a motorcycle on Chakrapatdipong Road. Police believed that the act was a retaliation following a recent tough crackdown on illegal motorcycle racing gangs. (TNA)

Foreign resident found dead in his apartment

No signs of foul play

Boonlua Chatree

Police and Sawang Boriboon personnel were called to the Nirun Condotel in Soi Arunothai following the housekeeping staff discovery of the body of a foreign resident, later identified as James Robert Citizen.

Initial examination revealed no evidence of foul play and police estimate that the foreigner had been dead for at least 2-3 days.

Police questioned the housekeeper who discovered the man, and she told them that she cleaned the outside hallway on a daily basis and noticed that he had not moved from the same position for two days. Assuming something was amiss, she called the police.

Officers and Sawang Boriboon personnel surreptitiously removed the body of the 57-year-old UK national as not to alert residents. Police suspect the man died of a heart attack in his sleep. However, the body was taken to the forensic institute for a post mortem to determine cause of death.

Police briefs

Boonlua Chatree

Garbage collector, arrested for stealing bicycles, claims he “found them”

Police on regular patrol noticed the strange behavior of a local garbage collector in the very early hours on March 11. Bright eyed police moved in to arrest the man as he was in the process of wheeling off three bicycles that he had just stolen from a Soi 6 location.

The man, identified as Kaew Darsute, 25, from Ubon Ratchatani told police that he had ‘found’ the bikes lying around and thought they had been discarded. Kaew was quoted as saying that he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong and he didn’t steal the bikes; he just acquired them. Police were not amused and charged Kaew Darsute with theft.

Gamblers arrested at pool hall

Crime suppression officers raided the PS Snooker hall to arrest hardened criminals for gambling on March 11. The raid first netted four people engaged in the illegal activity. Gambling equipment and the princely sum of 20 baht was seized as evidence. As police in went through the establishment they found three more people playing cards and mahjong, confiscating the items and impounding another 20 baht in gambling funds. All were charged with illegal activities and will try their luck in the court system.

Deadly mix of alcohol and speed contributes to the death of motorcyclist

Sawang Boriboon personnel and police were called to the scene of a fatal accident on Beach Road in North Pattaya. At the scene they found the body of 18-year-old Suriyo Naewklang on the concrete. The youth had died from multiple injuries, including a broken neck.

Police suspect that the dead youth had been drinking and speeding. When he failed to negotiate the sharp corner near the Dusit Resort his motorbike ran into the gutter, throwing him off the bike and into a power pole, killing him instantly. The body was taken to Banglamung Hospital for relatives to collect into order to proceed with funeral rites.

Ganja dealer caught red handed

Criminal investigation officers last week arrested 47-year-old Chalor Monprasert with half a kilogram of marijuana. Officers made their arrest at the woman’s Huay Yai residence, confiscating the weed already packed for sale and delivery to her customers in the area.

Chalor was taken to the Banglamung police station where she was charged with possession and intent to sell a class 5 illegal substance. During interrogation Chalor admitted to her business dealing, saying that she bought the drug from a man known only as Lek. Police are continuing with their investigation.

Ride-by gang shoots youth in the face

Scary end to the first day of Pattaya Music Festival

Boonlua Chatree

A group of youths on their way home from a fun night out at the Pattaya Music Festival were taken by surprise when 3 motorcycles, each with pillion passengers, rode past and fired shots. One man was wounded when the 12 gauge shotgun pellets from a home made pistol hit him in the face at around 1 a.m. Saturday.

Udom Wiengsuntia, 20, was treated for a gunshot wound to the face following the first night of the Pattaya Music Festival.

Udom Wiengsuntia, 20, was rushed to the hospital by his friends, who then called police. Pattaya police made their way to the hospital after visiting the scene of the shooting.

Doctors were in the process of tending to the injured man when police arrived. Udom’s friend, Sompob Chuetrong, 20, told police they had just returned from a night out at the music festival and were at the door to their residence when a group of 6 youths on three motorcycles rode past and fired shots, hitting Udom before fleeing in the direction of Sukhumvit. Sompob said he and his other friend rushed Udom to the hospital before calling police. Officers recorded the statements as evidence and are searching for the ride-by shooters.