May 22nd 2013 saw a one day meeting of Chiang Mai folk on a Vision for Chiang Mai. (Mostly folk not invited to the big meeting at the new Convention & Exhibition Center)
The Meeting was held as part of a national consultation process for a bill on local government powers attended by around 60 Chiang Mai residents included one foreign national. The morning session heard “Vision Statements” about the future “Chiang Mai Metropolis” from six invited speakers. One frightening statistic was reported by a lecturer in animal husbandry from Mae Jo University who said only 21% of our farmers own the land they till. He clearly did not approve and in the lunch break his was the only contribution to receive favorable comment as visionary.
I noticed no discussion about issues such as the preferred future population size and make-up. How many people? What ethnic mix?
The Mayor spoke and I am told he complained about restrictions on spending from Bangkok. Rather odd really as his big sister is local MP and together with the Shinawatra family his clan have a firm grip on the local political scene as well as the national government. Perhaps the answer is that the bureaucrats, both military and civilian run the country, not elected officials and hence the complaint from PM Yingluck about Thailand not being a democracy.
During the afternoon workshops, the group pictured below considered issues ignored in the Asia Pacific Water Summit Chiang Mai Declaration issued with great fanfare on 20th May.
A transcript of the discussion was promised but has not been forth coming but an idea of issues may be gleaned from the notes above scrawled by the convener.
A firm conclusion was that the Plodprasop 350 billion baht Water Plan was firmly rejected. Rather than massive dam and drainage works which will further devastate the environment, soft measures were agreed. These should include reforesting hillsides to increase the ability of the soil to remain in place and store rain water and restoring river banks by removing levy banks and planting trees.