A Beautiful Songkran 2557 b.e.

April 11th 2014 and the Chompoo Huai is flowering at the Huai Keow Waterfall.

Syzygium formosum - Chompoo Huai

Syzygium formosum – Chompoo Huai

Only one early bird water reveler was to be seen under the watchful eye of his dad.

Water Reveller No 1Water Reveller No 2

Armed men are also on watch. Forest guards at the nearby National Park HQ about to set off to deter and apprehend arsonists and poachers. They have made more than 100 arrests this year I was told.  Police are also on the road ready to turn back buses attempting to defy the ban on climbing the road to Doi Suthep.

Stop Burning - Reduce SmogNo Bus on the mountain


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Invaders Scale the Ramparts

While others were shivering in fear at the thought of an icy Songkran and polluted moat the city was taken unawares yesterday as this  intrepid band swam the infected waters and scaled the city’s defences of Jaeng Hua Lin across from Kanchana Pisek Park.

Chiang Mai Invaded - 1Chiang Mai Invaded - 2Chiang Mai Invaded - 3Chiang Mai Invaded - 4

What might be the target of their attack? The giant Chiang Mai Invaded - 5concrete edifices of the oppressive state school system perhaps? Or might they go further afar to the Mayoral Palace on the Ping River to drive home the lack of clean swimming facilities in their part of town?

Will the local press reveal the chaos or let it be concealed in the Songkran fracas?

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Chiang Mai gets Four Lane Bikeway

“Four Lane Bikeway” how else should we describe these newly painted markings on the road near Chiang Mai’s Three Kings Square?

Four Lane Bikeway

It would appear we have very fast bike lanes in the center and slow lanes at the side so watch out pedestrians trying to cross!  However no signs tell the motorists where to go so what is the true purpose of what we see? Is it the same as the glossy document (n.b. it is one not two) pictured below?

Chiang Mai Sustainable TransportChiang Mai ...

And are these markings and recent roadside banners anything more than a show to deflect criticism that the so-called Sustainable Transport Project   analysed by by James Farrell at ChiangMaiCityNews.com ?On the other hand if you want the government PR line pure and simple try Chiang Mai Mail in their April 6th edition.

Returning to the glossy report. This was handed out to attendees at a recent forum but since the report has not been loaded on the internet we present a few pages here. The report as you may have guessed from the picture pair above has text in “English” and Thai, complete with many colorful diagrams and photos all presented twice.

Traffic Predictions CMU


Chiang Mai's Vision  DISCLAIMER

“The information contained in this report has not been independently verified …. subject to change without notice .. nor be relied on in connection with any …  commtment … whatsoever.”

This above be an abridged version of the small print disclaimer in their report. So an apt description might well be “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing“, to quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.



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Chiang Mai Rejects the Reds ??

What ever happened to “Respect my Vote”?

After the February 2 House of Representatives election the Election Commission refused to release any results, even though it was the nearest to a sure thing that here in Chiang Mai the Peur Thai Party would have taken all the seats with ease.

Now, only two days after the March 30 Senate election a winner for Chiang Mai has been declared (Chiang Mai City News). Why the rush and why no wait for absentee votes this time when the turn out of electors was a miserable 58% ?

Were the commissioners perhaps hoping that a new Senate, still stacked with anti-government senators appointed by the military government which followed the ouster of the Thai Rak Thai government led by Thaksin Shinawatra, would be able to convene and impeach Prime Minister Yingluck over the controversial rice scheme?

Kritsanapong Pormbumram

Kritsanapong Pormbumram

Bangkok Pundit presents an national  overview of the results, and New Mandala writes with a suggestion on how to make the politicians “Respect My Vote”.

Here below are figures taken from the Chiang Mai City News report presented in a table.

Number Voted – Total 733401     % of  “voting”
Adisorn 178175 24.29
Kritsanapong 120932 16.49
Tavorn 91002 12.41
Sompong 34628 4.72
Sampan 1982 0.27
 Informal 15162
 No Vote 113542
 adding Informal & No vote (128704)
Sum of 3-9 555423 75.73
That leaves Other 8 candidates votes 177978 24.27
Eligible voters 1250000

So how can one interpret the result of the election not just in the simple terms of what the law says but in terms of the principle of “Respect May Vote” ?

My first response was to look at the votes of the winner, recently Deputy Governor Mr Adisorn who had been endorsed by all the “Thaksin System” MPs of Chiang Mai. He scored less than 1 in 4 votes from electors who went to the poll. When one counts all the 1.25 million eligible voters only 1 in 7 voted for Peur Thai preferred Mr Adisorn. Moreover he scored less than 200 more votes than the 8 candidates not mentioned in the report. That’s certainly not what I would call a respectable vote.

Then  looking at the result for runner up Mr Kritsanapong trailing by more than 50,000 votes, even less respectable but certainly a rejection of any claim by the Rak Chiang Mai ’51 group to represent Chiang Mai people. Will this lead ’51 to reconsider its approach to dealing with dissenting voices, will they or should they respect the vote?

In the US presidential election of Al Gore vs George W. Bush, Mr Bush  was declared elected, despite his lacking a majority of votes. The Greens candidate, whose supporters would surely have preferred Gore to Bush was depicted as the spoiler, despite the fact that Gore meekly accepted the ruling of the conservative stacked Supreme Court, rather than fighting for a recognition of the will of the people. Gore failed to “Respect My Vote”.

The US result could not have happened in France or Russia where a run-off election between the two leading candidates is ordered if there is no absolute majority is the first round of voting. Approaching the extreme of fairness in elections it the Australian system which delivers the least dis-liked candidate to parliament**.

The Bangkok senate election result has been challenged despite the huge winning margin, so why not challenge the result here and have a strident debate of the bureaucrat’s Red vs the people’s Red? Is this what Kritsanapong has been thinking as his posters still were on the roadside on the Mae Rim Rd five days after the election while the others vanished almost overnight?

Returning to the voting figures, between them the two Red candidates scored around 40% of the vote, which amounts to fewer than one in four eligible electors voting Red. This appears to destroy the myth that Chiang Mai loves the Reds, Thaksin or poor Yingluck who is struggling to survive attacks from the establishment.

However the comments above are based on a report which did not attempt to go into all the details of the election and appears to have some minor inconsistencies. One omission is that candidate Tavorn (why is his name not written as Tawon as it is said?) is the brother of a Peur Thai Party in limbo MP. So that appears to bring the Red vote to 52% ballots cast.

Considering the disarray within the Red camp, Peur Thai might be considering themselves lucky that the Army’s constitution delivered them a winner.

Perhaps some readers, like the writer, do not have the right to vote. Never the less we might hope that for the Thai electors we love, and even more so for their children, that the country develops a culture of criticism and unlike the Election Commission, a respect for us all. That includes MPs and Senators behaving as representatives for us all and making themselves accessible, for example opening an electorate office where any can come to seek representation.


* A report just in strengthens the hold of big money on the US political scene:

and as one reader responded: “Yes, and what’s more is that less than half of adults vote in gen. “elections” in the US, so that 48.8% “winner takes all” winner gets the ‘vote’ of far less than 25% of the adult population. It is minority rule. And of course the system only provides two “choices” that are pre-selected by oligarchy. Elections Inc. in the US are merely the world’s most expensive PR stunt (and it’s big business)”

** The Australian system, has a common flaw with Thailand and the USA in a senate where the one person one vote rule does not apply. Also it appears to be unraveling with the appearance of a billionaire, with his own party rather than supporting establishment parties through donations, who appears to have the balance of power in the senate.



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Mango Winds bring Havoc

Most Chiang Mai folk have heard of the Mango Rains, namely a bout of rain coming at the time mango trees ( Mangifera spp.) grown for fruit flower.

This event, recently a matter of furious debate via Farcebook.com, according to Pim Kemasingki’s weather guru comes in “late Feb/early March”, not at the start of April.

What is less known is the local story that a profuse flowering portends fierce gales. So now we have them at the beginning of April: The Mango Gales as evidenced by this tree fall outside the Maths building at Chiang Mai University.

F = ma

However a morning tour today of the campus found no other casualties. None of the big Payom (Shorea roxburghii), Yang (Dipterocarpus alatus) or Takien (Hopea odorata) trees, some three times the height of this Don Sai (Ficus sp.) wind victim, appeared to suffer damage.

So why did this fall? Perhaps the ferocity of the gales are, as scientists warn us, due to the heating climate. But looking at the base of the upturned tree it appears that a root fungus may also have weakened the tree. Let’s ask CMU to bring in a tree pathologist to advise.

The Root of the Problem





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Smoke & Biochar ?


Here’s a story from some fellows in Amphoe Prao trying to do something about smoke from agricultural field waste and hoping to get carbon for soil improvement  rather than ash :

This shows a film of a makeshift biochar kiln in action:
What is happening? Well, I saw a farmer burning a fallow field that he had strimmed, and racked into piles. Dylan was the first to see the fires, and we then went and took a look, and started talking to the farmer. It was obvious to me that each pile needed more air. This was near Warm Heart and I suggested to the farmer that i would like to see if I could make something to burn the biomass without as much smoke. He said fine, help yourself.
I put mind into gear, and went shopping for bits in Phrao. I found some 5ft. long roofing sheets, several 6m. lengths of angle iron and some self-tapping screws, and made a five ft. cube, open at the bottom  and with a large hole in the top with an even larger chimney, suspended six inches above the hole in the top. Dylan was convinced it needed much  more air, so I put a 6″ gap in the middle of each of the four sides. I borrowed one of Warm Heart’s trucks and collected some biomass from the farmer’s field, but there wasn’t much left, but I thought enough. It was a bad thought. This prototype was called the Star Ship by the kids.
Dylan and I tried a burn, but it was not a real success. Small amount of smoke, but lots of black ash sent up. It caused anger among their neighbours.
We all had a post-mortem, and decided to close the gaps in the side and fill it with something similar to rice straw, namely lemon grass leaves. I cpllected three truck loads, putting more on each trip. I can now hand you over to Michael Shafer of Warm Heart, and his email about the test which I couldn’t attend.
Gordon Hirst and Michael said:-  That’s what my kid’s call Stuart’s shiny contraption in the middle of the football field.
One and all have been highly skeptical about the UFO’s potential. Today’s tests put all the skeptics to shame. The UFO performed wonderfully. Details below.
Before starting, I made a number of minor adjustments to the original design.
  • I closed all of the side vents, leaving only an opening around the bottom for air inflow.
  • I reduced the gap at the bottom to a single thin cinder block from the original two.
Gordon and I tried to create a test situation close to the anticipated field use. We stuffed the UFO full of dried lemon grass tops. It took 8-9 large bags of fuel, approximately two pickup loads to fill it completely. (Rough estimate of volume: 6 cu m) One of the kids jumped on top of the pile to compress it.
We top lit the pile.
The fire took immediately and burned very hot. For the first ten minutes we had a lot of flame and considerable smoke. During this time, we had flashes of burning gas bursting through the cracks between sheets of roofing metal. Toward the end of the 10 minutes,the fire had reached the bottom of the pile and began to creep out on the ground.
At this point – approximately the same time as with our regular TLUDs – the smoke stopped and the flames around the sides disappeared. Looking in the cracks around the top we could see a fairly chaotic pattern of orange flame floating above the pile. The chimney sucked the flames up. (Never saw the classic purple flame at all. So much space between the ultimate top of the pile and the chimney perhaps the orange was the inevitable consequence of cooling.)
At one point we began to get a lot of smoke. When I investigated, I found that part of the pile had collapsed against the side of the UFO, cutting off the upward flow of air from the ground level “vent.” When I adjusted the pile and pushed stuff around some to recreate a flow, the smoke stopped.
We decided to quench the pile after an hour to see what was happening.
We poured a huge amount of water on the pile and even so it reignited an hour later.
When poked open, the pile revealed that pyrolysis had gone in about 6-9 inches on average. (Much more in some areas. Interior airflow was very chaotic and the burn varied all over the place.) Within the pile, the lemon grass was entirely untouched.
The outer layer was GREAT biochar. Even wet, it “clinked” when crushed in your hand. Perfect carbonization of the stalks preserving every detail, brittle, essentially no ash on the surface of the pile.
Lessons learned:
  • KISS: keep it simple, stupid.
  • The simple sheet steel was entirely unaffected by the process. No burn holes, little discolorization, no warping, sagging or whatever.
  • The frame was totally unaffected.
  • The “box” kiln (with plenty of leaks, drafts, etc.) produced a very chaotic burn, but pyrolysis preceded without trouble.
  • Filling the container to the max made a huge difference. The mini-piles used previously simply allowed way too much air to give a good test of the kiln.
  • Quenching is as big a problem as we have always thought it was.
  • Burn time is as big a problem as we have always thought it was.
What next:
Given these lessons, Gordon and I have decided to make some big changes in our plans.
  • We have decided to abandon the pyramid model as unnecessarily difficult to make and maintain, and wasteful of materials (all those wasted little triangles). We plan to try with a modified box design that is perfectly cubical to minimize material wastage.
  • We have decided to keep the interior chimney/outside airway concept from the Vietnamese design but to modify it.
  • On the one hand, we believe that the ability to add oxygen to the interior of the pile is critically important to speed the burn process and
  • On the other, we believe that the ability to inject water into the interior of the pile is critically important to speed the quenching process. (I am really hung up about the quenching issue. We poured water onto this pile to very little effect. The problem is that even pyrolyzed, the straw in arrayed in such as way as to sluice the water off, thus keeping it from penetrating. Also, the heat instantly turns the water into steams which explodes outward, thus not touching the burning areas below. I really think that the way to go is going to be to force water up into the inside of the pile. Here it will cool, etc., but more important, when it flashes to steam, it will escape outward through the still pyrolyzing straw, cooling and killing the oxygen. In fields where there is no easy access to water, this is the only way I think that we will be able to quench without busting our springs toting water by truck!)
Tomorrow, Wed., I will test various thicknesses of a “cement board” to see how it stands up to heat. Because it comes in 4×8 sheets, it lends itself to the extremely easy construction of modular wall and top pieces for a cubical kiln in which the board can be easily and quickly replaced if broken or burnt through.
If with testing it turns out that cost/burnout rate make the cement board solution impractical, a second option is to use the corrugated roofing steel Stuart used. Because it comes in much smaller and less convenient sizes, however, it will require much more work in the construction of the frames, and from a practical point of view seems to be a second choice at this point. That said, tomorrow I will test the sheet steel and cement board at the same time to see if I can establish use-life comparisons between them.
I then proposed building the same basic box at the School of Renewable Energy to its Director Dr. Natthawud Dussacee. He gave me the go ahead. It’s built and is ready for a trial early this coming week. I’ll keep you in the loop.


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Nimmanhaemin Cancer Check

While residents of Chiang Mai may justifiably feel, Depressed, Down hearted and downright Outraged at the failure of the authorities to take effective action against dangerous air borne pollution, even to the point where the governor castigated the press corps for wearing facemasks, Dr Thipsukon Khumsaeng (Dr Bae) is on our side, on the streets, measuring air borne carcinogens.Dr Thipsukon Khumsaeng, CMU Physics DeptDr Bae lectures in the Department of Physics and Materials Science at Chiang Mai University and is in the early phase of a two month study to augment the decade long work of the Pollution Control Department of daily air quality monitoring at stations across Thailand, which can be viewed at aqmthai.com.

Her study concentrates on analysis of known carcinogens in the form of aromatic hydrocarbons which adhere to fine particles in motor exhaust. Particles lodge in the lungs and are then taken by the blood stream and stored in the body’s fatty tissue.

Standing in Nimmanhaemin Rd opposite a large private infant’s school, Dr Bae explained that her study involved taking  filter samples of roadside air over two consecutive seven hour periods, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. This process is to be done twice for each of three sampling stations in Sirimanklajan Rd and the Hua Lin corner at the bottom of Huay Keow Rd as well as in Nimmanhaemin.

“I chose this spot” she told me “because it is so busy with people, and I am concerned that children at the school will be affected. I plan to publish the results in a scientific journal and also provide them to the Traffic Police and Municipal Government.”

Dr Bae thinks the Nimmanhaemin area and Suthep Rd by the entrance to Maharat (Suan Dok) Hospital are likely to be the areas in Chiang Mai where many people are exposed to the highest levels of vehicular pollution.

Keep tuned for news on the progress of this study.

Yupparat Air Quality Monitoring Station

Yupparat Air Quality Monitoring Station







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Chiang Mai “Keow Suay Hom”

Remember the mysterious “Keow Suay Hom” name ( Green Beautuful Fragrant). It appeared in 2010 as part of the “Chiang Mai Iam” public relations exercise to make Chiang Mai more livable with a cleaner environment and stronger community. Four years on with smog as usual can we see anything but a backslide? Take a look at this:   – and to enjoy the perfume take a trip to Samoeng Neur 50 km from town or bicycle down to McKean Rehabilitation Center. Fragrant Clerodendrum viscosum


“PiiMot” or Clerodendrum viscosum  could be commonplace in Chiang Mai’s parks if it were to be planted as it will spread from the roots to make excellent habitat for birds and butterflies. Gum Hak Doi Suthep planted some in the Kanchana Pisek Park which were recently destroyed in council “makeover”. The good news is that trees we planted to restore some of the original biodiversity survive.

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