Dear Helga and Heinz!
Have a wonderful time in Chiang Mai, enjoy the Valentines
Day with your magnificent family. Enjoy the sun and the fantastic Thai Food.
Big hugs, love you a lot,
Tiffany, Christine and Markus from Istanbul
Best wishes to the American community of Chiang Mai for a
wonderful Valentine’s Day, filled with love and happiness.
Consul General Eric Rubin and the staff of the U.S.
Consulate General in Chiang Mai
To Grandma and Grandpa
I want to wish you beautiful holidays in Chiang Mai.
Thinking of you every day!
Dear lovely Lamyai,
I can’t wait to hold you again in my arms. Love Tom
Happy Valentines Day to all those who love this country
with its friendly and most of all peaceful people. As the world is again on
the blink of another world war ... we are happy to live in Thailand and
hopefully stay here forever ... domi duca.
To all Canadians out there - happy Valentines! We
here at the Consulate of Canada in Chiang Mai are always there for you. Nit
Wangviwat, Honorary Consul, 0 5385 0140.
Best of luck and lots of love to Chiangmai Mail, from
Archarn Jim Messenger.
The Austrian community might be small, but the Consulate
of the Republic of Austria in Chiang Mai does not want to miss this
opportunity to wish all of you, especially the Austrian society, a very
special and romantic Valentines Day.
Kh. Pravit Arkarachanores, Hon. Consul.
I want to wish you a very nice Valentines Day and always
good luck on the golf course. Mami Noi and me love you very much
Thank you for more than 30 wonderful years we have
shared, and the best of all: I still love you.
Dear Mom, dear Grandma Karin, wishing you a very
happy Valentine! We love you, Magnus and Alexander
I will always eat the food you cook for us.
Walter (Frozen Fountain Restaurant)
To my husband Tom and my son Tom, and Kitty, I
wish you a very happy Valentines Day. Lots of love, Dot
In times of conflict and possible war, Valentines Day
should gain even more popularity across the world. Take advantage of this
auspicious day and fulfill your romantic dreams and promises. Show how much
you appreciate your partner, family and friends being in your life!
Hagen E.W. Dirksen
of the Federal Republic of Germany
Pie Sabai wishes all its customers a most romantic
Quality Bakery of Chiangmai
Happy Valentines Day to all my lovely students.
Study hard! Ajarn Jackie
Dept. of International MBA
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I love you two so much that I made you come to land of
paradise. My life is even better because of your existence. Thank you for
your support, and I love you two very much.
HIV AIDS in Thailand :
The Road Back or Disaster?
Chiangmai Mail special correspondent Peter Cummins
recently completed an in-depth study of some of the tragic
repercussions of HIV/AIDS on the innocent victims, Thai children.
Commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund
(UNICEF) in Bangkok, the study focuses on the northern and the
north-eastern regions where HIV/AIDS has been endemic for more than a
But, through community assistance, particularly the
Sangha (Buddhist monkhood), individuals in the public and private
sectors, UNICEF and related agencies and a spirit of understanding and
cooperation from all touched by the insidious disease, there is hope:
an arrest of infections and a hope for those carrying the HIV virus of
returning to a normal life.
Story and photos by Peter Cummins
For all who have experienced it, the death of a parent is
a very personal loss, a unique situation for every individual, leaving the
bereaved offspring in situations as varied as the human race itself,
depending upon the circumstances surrounding the death.
will take care of us when HIV strikes?
If the parent who dies is at an advanced age, there is
usually not much trauma for those left behind. Life goes on. But imagine,
for a moment, the death of one or both parents from the ravages of HIV/AIDS,
at a young age, leaving a defenceless child or children to face a hostile
environment and an uncertain future, fraught with hazards.
It is, indeed, a vicious cycle. In Thailand, a child
whose parents have contracted the HIV virus and are mostly doomed to die of
AIDS, is not only inherently disadvantaged by discrimination and the social
mores which place barriers - artificial or real - around the child, but also
must face the physical barriers which are equally devastating. With parents
facing imminent death and too sick to work, the unfortunate - and totally
innocent victims - must seek employment to support them, precluding any
possibility of education.
looms on the horizon for these happy children
and support groups help ease the pain and sorrow
The child is thus condemned to a life of unskilled work,
lack of social benefits, a total loss of self-esteem and a steady downward
spiral from which there is little or no escape.
Vuth, for example, is a 10-year-old in Grade 4 of a
Primary School in a district of Sisaket Province in Thailand’s north-east.
He would rather roam the woods near his home and go fishing than go to
school where he is ostracised and called the “Aids kid”. Vuth has two
younger sisters - one in Grade 3 who does not have any particular problems -
but the other, even in kindergarten, is subject to teasing about her
HIV-infected mother and she has no ‘playmates’.
“My children have never done anything wrong in their
lives,” says Vuth’s mother Bua, HIV-infected for six years. “Since
their father died of AIDS, although none of my three children are
infected,” Bua complained, “they cannot live normal lives and they
suffer discrimination at their school, at the market and in the everyday
life of the village.”
In another case, in a neighbouring sub-district, Aree and
her two sisters were alone with their HIV-infected mother and were the
object of much discrimination at Primary School. When their mother became
too sick to work and support the family, Aree’s elder sister had to leave
school to take on the role of family provider - at age 12!
Aree continued at school, in spite of being “left
out” and, although she likes to study, she will leave after Grade Nine.
“After that, I do not know what I will do. I have nobody with whom I can
discuss my problems; no friends; I eat lunch alone; and none of the others
in class want me to join group projects,” said this sad little child,
tears welling in her huge, pretty brown eyes.
Even further down the scale are AIDS orphans who, having
lost both parents, are in the custody of ‘carers’, often grandparents
who are old, and in most cases, desperately poor. A child, already
psychologically scarred - even if not afflicted with symptoms of HIV - faces
a generation gap with these aged grandparents which, added to grinding
poverty and often lack of schooling, can lead many youngsters to take to a
life as street children and, worse, child prostitution and its concomitant
This is an oft-repeated scenario that would haunt any
mother - anywhere. Yet, for some 200,000 Thai children, poised at the dawn
of the New Millennium, it is the only world they know - and, maybe, will
Hope and strength in adversity
But from the bleakness of the plight of these children,
help from many sources, including UNICEF, the UN Joint Programme on
HIV/AIDS, Buddhism (the Kingdom’s religion), teachers, the public and
private sectors, health and social workers and a legion of volunteers,
brings hope and strength.
Through the “Sangha” (Buddhist monkhood), many
children, either orphans or with one surviving - albeit ailing from HIV and,
thus, dependent - parent, have found solace in their grief, gained
confidence and new directions in life.
Manit Sricome was 12 years old when her step-father died
of AIDS. Her biological father and her mother Noi had divorced when she was
only four and her stepfather tested HIV positive which developed into the
fatal disease. Manit was traumatized to learn that the mother she adored had
also tested positive for HIV.
a grim future as victims of HIV/AIDS-afflicted parents
not heavy - he’s my brother”: a responsibility far beyond her tender
childhood: but for how long?
What can a 12-year-old do, faced with an ailing mother
and two siblings, a little brother of eight and a baby sister, from the
stepfather, just five years old? The family was shattered while, at the same
time, ironically enough, their dire circumstances brought them closer
Friends and relatives in the village, too, rallied around
and, “Mum joined an HIV/AIDS victim support group. We nursed each
others’ hearts,” said Manit, gesticulating with her slender hands and
pointing to her heart.
“My mum can still work and she is a seamstress, making
robes at Wat (temple) Hua Rin (located in Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai
Province),” Manit said, with a winsome smile. “She earns about Baht 100
($US2.50) a day which, added to my own income, allowed me to complete
primary school and enter a vocational training school, where I learn
It was also at the temple where Manit learned her
flower-arranging skills, making garlands and bouquets for festivals and
special occasions, also earning about Baht 100 per day to support her mother
and siblings. “People these days must have flower arrangements for
weddings and other ceremonies,” said the earnest little girl.
With a wisdom far beyond her tender years, no doubt
tempered by her hardships, she said, “Even people who are rough and
ill-mannered can change their nature when they look at flowers,” adding as
an after-thought, “Women are attracted to flowers, too...our hearts go
She also learned classical Thai dancing and helped with
cooking at the temple. “I am only small, but my hands are strong and I use
them to help our family,” she said, displaying finely-formed hands and
slim, long fingers.
“My teacher Ms Pranee was a great source of help and
consolation during those grim years,” Manit recalled recently. Ms Pranee
told me to give mama as much support as I could. “We - mum and I - became
very close during that time,” Manit remembered. “Being close to mum
showed her that, even at my young age, I accepted things as they were.”
“Do you like doing work where you can use your
hands?” Manit was asked. Her profound reply was an insight into a
determined, strong mind: “I’m good at things where I can use my hands.
It’s like things that endure have colours that are soft. By using our
hands, we can do things that our minds can’t achieve. When it comes from
my own hands I feel proud. It’s the result of my own skill and the money I
earn makes mum happy and helps us all,” she answered.
I could not help but reflect how care-free and easy my
own upbringing had been: a life with healthy parents, good circumstances and
a rosy future. A life full of laughter and joy where daily necessities were
taken for granted - or, even, as a birth-right, through having had the good
fortune to be born in a prosperous, stable society.
On the contrary, many of the very basic needs are simply
just not available to a huge number of poor and marginalized people in
Thailand, especially those in the disadvantaged north and north-eastern
regions. In my childhood, the most basic of resources, water, for example,
came from faucets - an endless flow of clean, clear water, even hot or cold,
at the turn of a tap. In a number of Thailand’s regions, for many,
life-giving water for consumption, hygiene and crops is a dubious-looking
brown colour, coming from a bucket carried a long distance.
I was considerably chastened by the circumstances and
tragedy which enveloped this sweet child - now a teenager - who, like her
mother, is totally innocent and who, as she said it so poignantly, “I am
the medicine to treat my mother”. She wanted to save enough money from her
various after-school activities - “to finish building the house so that
mum will be happy.”
Manit’s mother found peace and friendship at Wat Hua
Rin, whose abbot, Athikarn Thanawat Tekapanyo, affectionately known as Luang
Pi Daeng, ministers to the AIDS-inflicted and AIDS-affected through the
temple’s AIDS-support project. The temple is located in the Tung Sa Tok
sub-district, San Patong District of Chiang Mai Province, in the northern
region of Thailand where HIV/AIDS is most prevalent.
done nothing wrong
The will to succeed
Manit’s suffering has endowed her with a physical and
inner strength which has not gone un-noticed by authorities. In her darkest
days, she was the school ‘dunce’, but her courage and determination
shone through and, in October this year, Manit had made such progress that
she was selected as the Thai delegate to the Sixth International Congress on
AIDS, held at Melbourne, sponsored by the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS.
She noted that the help and guidance from Abbot Luang Pi
Daeng, her teacher and many other understanding people gave her the
confidence and determination rise above life’s problems to such an extent
that she is now an AIDS educator to her age group.
Manit’s message to the AIDS Congress is that she wants,
“Other teenagers to learn from my experience - whether affected by
HIV/AIDS or not. They should never give up... but fight and act wisely to
move on and live a normal life,” she counsels her peer group.
Perhaps, in the near future, with her obvious abilities,
Manit could be eligible for an upcoming Youth Career Development Programme,
a joint collaboration between UNICEF, leading hotels and the Royal Thai
Government. In its seven years of operations, almost 330 disadvantaged young
girls from the north and north-east have graduated, proficient in the hotel
and hospitality industry, to go forward into productive, fulfilling lives,
far removed from the spectre of a tragic future.
Another outstanding case of a youngster rising above
HIV/AIDS-inflicted adversity is 17-year-old Thai boy Khomsan Sangsuengmoo.
When aged only 15, Khomsan was selected, together with a teenaged girl from
Uganda, to represent 13 million AIDS orphans world-wide at the AIDS Orphans
Symposium. Held at the United Nations New York Headquarters on World AIDS
Day, 1 December, 1999, the gathering of more than 800 people, including
heads of state, was supported by UNICEF and the UN Joint Programme on
Khomsan Sangsuemoon, who had never before left his
village in Chiang Rai’s Mai Chan District in the north-east of Thailand,
drawing strength from his tragic life fearlessly addressed the symposium
with a message heard loud and clear around the world.
This brave, sad boy, with the quiet voice and the
self-effacing demeanour brought on by his suffering and loneliness, informed
an emotionally-charged assembly that, “AIDS had killed the two people I
love most - my parents”. The 15-year-old Grade 8 student’s plea,
presented to the world with a maturity belying his youth, was a request, on
behalf of all the children who share his fate, including one million
HIV-positive in Thailand, for simply “some support and opportunity”.
Khomsan had lost his surviving parent when his father
succumbed to the disease. He was only 12 then and had not even known his
mother who died from AIDS-related complications before his first birthday.
- The Key
As with almost all facets of life - whether from the
western viewpoint or in a country like Thailand - it is information and
education which are the keys to understanding any given topic - even the
most controversial. Abbot Luang Pi Daeng soon learned when he launched his
AIDS-support project six years ago that he had to convince the local and
provincial authorities, the community doctors, nurses, teachers and staff of
the local administration, to accept HIV/AIDS victims as REAL people, able to
work and contribute to the community.
Wat Hua Rin has been exemplary and its AIDS/HIV
assistance programmes have been a blueprint for many others in the region.
The abbot himself, upon the death of his own mother, went as a child to live
and study at the temple and wanted to repay the community. The Prasanjai
Group (literally meaning ‘collective will’), which he established to
offer shelter to infected women, has been highly successful. His campaign of
education and information throughout all echelons of the community is paying
handsomely and, as a result, said the abbot, “There has been a reduction
of HIV cases and those already infected now have a better quality of
The abbot believes that, whether in the school
environment or the community at large, ostracism and discrimination stem
from a lack of information, rather than any inbred hostility. As long as
people, young or old, do not have access to the factual information about
AIDS and its transmission, these prejudices will always exist.
Unlike many western societies, where individual rights
are protected and discrimination is forbidden by law, Thailand, even under
the new Constitution safeguarding these personal freedoms, is only slowly
accepting a legal approach. Rather, it is the age-old traditions of
compassion and sympathy, coupled to an understanding of the magnitude of the
problem, which will help alleviate the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and
perhaps in the long-term, help eradicate the disease altogether.
The HIV/AIDS problem is immense and will not go away.
Much assistance is needed for the “hidden sufferers” - the innocent
children - and, thus, it is essential to implement HIV education programmes
BEFORE any parental death occurs.
All available resources - financial, human and technical
- must be brought to the front-line of what is, basically, a battle for the
safety and well-being of future generations.
UNICEF will continue to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Why I don’t trust George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein
By Dr. Iain Corness
From the outset, let me state my position. I am not a war
buff. As a small boy I was unable to pull the wings off butterflies and
ushered cockroaches outside, rather than stand on them. Although being
called up for National Service, I never went to war, and I don’t think I
could kill another person in cold blood. Perhaps this makes me a wimp, but
at least I sleep with a clear conscience.
For the past couple of months the world has been
subjected to the calls from US President George W(arrior) Bush that Saddam
Hussein has to be eliminated. He has been joined by his ally, UK
“President” Tony (the teeth) Blair. Between them they are attempting to
convince the world that war must be waged on Iraq, so that we all can sleep
easy in our beds as well.
Using the terrorism threat, al-Qaida, and anything else
that might tug at our needs for a free world, George W and Tony B are
attempting to convince the world of the ‘righteousness’ of their
imminent war. A sort of ‘good guys’ jihad, if you like.
Well, gentlemen, I don’t like it. There is another
agenda at work here, and unless I am very much mistaken, it is called oil
supplies. I believe it has nothing to do with stopping a threat to world
peace, but everything to do with the stopping of Middle East oil supplies to
the western world. I am but one person living in Thailand, but I am yet to
be convinced that war is the answer. It appears that Germany, France and
Russia are also not convinced, so perhaps I am not alone here.
Dr. Blix has proved to my satisfaction that Saddam
Hussein has been dealing in subterfuge, but has not proved to my
satisfaction that his stocks of weapons of mass destruction are so vast that
we are about to be blown off the face of the planet. But then, perhaps I
have got this totally wrong as well. I certainly don’t trust Saddam
I think I would be a lot more convinced about this war,
which is for the common good they assure me, if we (the good guys) were
being led by George and Tony astride their war elephants, charging through
the desert to meet Saddam on his camel. Let us see these leaders truly lead
their flocks to salvation or damnation, with a great degree of personal
risk, instead of sending hundreds of thousands of troops to be cannon
fodder, while they sit at home in luxury.
My impression is that this is not a war being driven by
the people, but people being driven into a war. I am not convinced, George,
Tony and Saddam. I am not convinced at all.
May the Force be with you
By Dr. Iain Corness
One of the most delightful aspects of living in a foreign
country is to be able to become involved in the culture. This requires
having somebody who can take you by the hand and lead you through the
intricacies of it all. For me, that is my maid Suchada, the guiding force
behind my spirit houses, and someone who attempts to prevent me making too
many social gaffes. For that reason alone, I will remain in her debt.
Today was a “special” Buddha Day and I was advised
the day before that I should be ready in the morning, because I was part of
the ceremony. She, however, did not inform me that ‘morning’ was to
commence at 5.30 a.m. I have always been of the opinion that ‘mornings’
do not have a 5.30, unless one is coming home late! But at 5.30 I was woken
to the clatter of cooking in the kitchen, and as much as I tried to
concentrate on getting back to sleep, this was not possible. I think my
conscience was getting the better of me. After all, if Suchada was good
enough to get up early to cook for the spirits, the least I could do was to
be sociable, so I reluctantly stuck my head out from my lair at something
after six to find that much had been happening.
There, at my front gate, was a table laden with
offerings. Ducks, pork, rice wine, cakes and cookies, betel nut and even
cigarettes. Despite my opposition to the dreaded weed, I decided it was not
my place to remonstrate with the resident spirits in my spirit houses. I
might have been summonsed to be an integral part of all this ceremony, but I
was still, in my own view, a guest.
Suchada’s husband Yongyudh was also present and lit the
incense sticks for me while Suchada in her wonderful fractured English told
me I had to ask the spirits for good health and plenty of money. Perhaps she
is going to ask me for a raise, was my idle thought, but I put it away
quickly as being unseemly under the circumstances.
After we had all placed our joss sticks in the
appropriate urns, it was time to sit and watch the candles slowly burn away
on the offering table, after which came the next part of this morning’s
ceremony. Suchada had placed firecrackers in the bushes, which I had to
light with all the due pomp and circumstance, while she ran for cover with
her hands over her ears!
Standing there, in a fog of smoke, noise and shards of
red paper I was informed that we had not finished yet. There was more to
this ritual. Sheets of gold painted paper were produced, which I had to
burn. This represented wealth and money, I was led to believe. This I could
appreciate, money always having burnt holes in my pockets, so this was most
But it was not over yet. I had to take the drinks from
the table and place them in the front of the spirit houses, and then food
and water was taken and placed at the base of the tree outside the front
gate. None of my resident spirits could complain about being overlooked that
So Suchada has taken me one more step towards total cultural
misunderstanding, but I have to admit I am enjoying it. I hope your forces
are with you too.
Strawberry Fair during Valentines Day
Sweeten your love life with strawberries
The 100th anniversary celebration of Samoeng District,
Chiang Mai will be held at Samoeng District Office and Ban Dong Community
School areas February 14-16 this year.
Siriwut Hematat, chief of Samoeng District said that
Chiang Mai governor Pisit Khetphasook will preside over the opening
ceremony. At the festival, there will be many unique activities such as
strawberry and banana eating competitions, gift basket decoration and wine
container contests, and hilltribe beauty contests. Many of the activities
are concerned with strawberries with the Miss Strawberry Contest, strawberry
products contest, Strawberry Salad making competition, and selling the best
strawberries in the world at an amazing low price.
Samoeng District was the first strawberry plantation site
in Thailand. The taste of the local strawberries is renowned, especially in
the Tambon Bor Kaew area. The area cultivated covers 2,300-rai and can earn
around 330 million baht per year for the local people.
On February 15, the second day of the festival, Dornphant
Chantrawiroj, the president of Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Office,
will preside over the “Sueb Chata” ceremony (long life) at 8.30 a.m.,
and this will be followed at 10.30 a.m. with the strawberry parade.