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Spread the word quietly

From inside Myanmar

Looking for theater information

Heritage hooliganism at Wieng Kum Kam

Spread the word quietly

Subject: Arrogance.
Dear Ed;

It has just occurred to me that we are coming up to Remembrance Day, the day upon which we who have in particular lost family and/or close friends in war remember them.

The last time I was able to attend a service on this day, was several years ago in the CM Foreign Cemetery where the missionary conducting the service made it a Christian service. This in spite of the fact that in previous years he had been informed that many of the people attending were not Christians and that the service should be one of remembrance, without reference to any religion. He replied to me that everybody there believed in the creation. An arrogant load of ...

The Christian missionaries also insist on putting up painted signs in the most inappropriate locations, for instance a local Christian school has a sign in front of a beautiful old Chedi on the road to the McCabe Leprosy Island. I wanted to film that Chedi on a tape I was making to send to my family in the UK. Likewise a group of missionaries put up numerous signs high up on trees several years ago. These were on the road between Hod and Mae Sariang. They were very large, and painted a violent yellow with black Thai script. My Buddhist Thai wife was deeply offended by those signs.

In closing, may I say that though I am an atheist I do respect other people’s beliefs; I wish others would respect my beliefs. Finally, I have very deep respect for the medical missionaries of this world who do sterling work, usually very quietly.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Knowles
San Kamphaeng

From inside Myanmar

Dear Readers of Chiangmai Mail,

I just recently moved to Myanmar after living in Thailand for many years. With shame I think back to the times when I complained about Bangkok or Chiang Mai traffic. I read the newspaper now on the Internet (so thankful that you provide that service - it makes my Sunday morning!) since I do not trust the mail system in Myanmar yet. I am afraid it would arrive long after Christmas. Let me give you a little insight and food for thought before you start complaining about your life in Thailand next time:

When you thought that traffic, driving or crossing the street is dangerous in Thailand, try Yangon between seven in the morning and six at night. In order to understand this, you have to know that here is a six-lane street, which is actually the main highway, going right through the middle of downtown Yangon. With it comes the morning and afternoon traffic jam. There is right hand traffic here, which makes you wonder if the British were here to leave their colonial fingerprint, as done so in many other countries. By not implementing their own traffic regulations, they have certainly left the citizens of Myanmar in confusion of what rule to follow. Do I drive on the left side or right side of the street? Should the driver’s seat be on the left or the right side of the car?

It is certainly an experience if you drive your car, sitting on the left side while the car next to you has the driver sitting on the right side. The advantage is that it makes car-to-car or driver-to-driver communication much easier and does not even require a mobile phone. However, if you are the one having to queue up behind two drivers engaged in recent gossips, this may not be such a “to laugh about” incident as there is certainly a lack in concentration for the much needed attention of what else is going on in the street by the two conversationalists.

The fast lane is the inside lane. This would be fine, if it would be used to drive a little bit faster than the rest. The faster lanes are used for traffic coming in from the side roads and now let’s picture it in our mind.

I come in high speed with my car on the fast track and suddenly another car turns in from my left side into my direction, slowly continuing and accelerating on my lane and a pedestrian starting to change sides with an open umbrella crossing both of our paths. Adrenaline levels are kept on a constant high level - Oh, I forgot the umbrella story?

During the rainy season and also during the summer season (meaning always!) people usually carry umbrellas, intended to protect themselves from either the heavy downfalls or from the burning sun. When crossing the street, people usually don’t look for the traffic on the side they cross first, but for the other side. In order not to be able to look for the most immediate danger, the umbrella will be kept opened in the direction of the incoming traffic. Maybe it is thought for protection if the incoming car can’t break or come to a standstill in time?

I guess this will not be the only difference between Myanmar and life in Thailand ... I will keep you posted.

Best regards - your Internet reader,
Ike Burnett

Looking for theater information


I am trying to get a web address of Kad Theater. I was wondering if you have such information. I’d like to read and know more about this Theater owned by Khun Suchai. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Kind Regards,
Lek Thanavatik

Los Angeles, CA

Unfortunately, and to the best of our knowledge, the Kad Theater does not have a web page. I would, however, recommend you tune-in to www.mcotchiangmai .com live broadcast, as they (more or less regularly) inform about happenings / performances at the theater. And, of course, to regularly read www. chiangmai-mail .com online, updated every Saturday evening (Thailand time)... Hope that helps.

Your Chiangmai Mail Team

Heritage hooliganism at Wieng Kum Kam

Dear Chiangmai Press Corps;

Yes, this is going to all of you as it affects everyone who has a love of Chiang Mai, and each of you has both contacts and a medium to hopefully achieve a required result.

Recently I unintentionally revisited Wieng Kum Kam, specifically that part named as Wat Phan Lao, and hypothesised as being the AD 1286 palace of King Mengrai. What I witnessed there has left me extremely disappointed and completely disillusioned regarding current local and national plans to develop the ancient city into anything approaching Sukhothai or Ayutthaya.

My original visits to that particular archaeology, 12 months ago, resulted in comments from archaeologists which I have been loathe to commit in writing. Suffice it to say that even then, it had been determined that a genuine search for historical truth was to be avoided at all costs.

When I presented cartographical and documentary evidence to support a proposal that the site was Mengrai’s palace, the excavation was abandoned very quickly and the site left to deteriorate, which last year’s heavy rains accelerated. At that time there was an unwelcome ferocity in the archaeologists’ determination that the site was “only a temple”. One of them can be quoted, “The structures are brick, do you think ordinary people built in brick at that time?” OK, so this particular ignoramus referring to Mengrai as an ordinary person, was from Bangkok. We all know that Bangkokians are completely unaware of anything north of Lop Buri.

Today FAD (Fine Arts Department) are restructuring the whole site - I can use no other description. Over thirty cubic metres of reproduction bricks have been dumped at the site and a team of labourers are busily “renovating” the eroded structures. Normally I would applaud and support such activity, but in this case I cannot, due to how they are doing it.

Ignoring that excavation was never completed, and therefore the true designs and purposes of many of the structures were never fully investigated; the unsupervised labourers are adopting the current excavation and rains-distorted surface as being the original ground level and are amateurishly applying childlike brick laying onto the original structures. The shapes and profiles that were clearly visible last year are being distorted and stylised into textbook Lan Na designs, a visualisation which does not appear in the photographs I took when they were first uncovered. Today’s ground surface is also known to still be 1.5 to 2 metres above the original, even after the top 1 to 1.5 metres were taken off last year.

Worse still is the fact that they are “inventing” structures and walls, creating them where there was no excavated evidence of any existing. By the start of high season, this site will indeed look like a typical AD 16th century Lan Na temple ruin, yet the early deep level excavations showed a much different picture. The site bore no similarity to any temple excavated inside Wieng Kum Kam, or to any surviving in or around Chiangmai. That fact is being deliberately changed and the truth hidden from future scholars and researchers - why?

FAD may deny this is there intent, against which I have my original photographs and drawings.

Following a Prime Ministerial directive last year, it may be fashionable (faddish? - sorry, bad pun) to rewrite the Burmo-Thai history of warfare between the two kingdoms and appease current political tensions, but there is no need to involve Wieng Kum Kam. That FAD continues to avoid recognition of scientific geological evidence concerning the flood dating for Wieng Kum Kam is another indicator of an ulterior political motive. They insist that it was flooded, destroyed, and abandoned, during the Burmese occupation of Chiangmai and Lan Na from AD 1558 to 1776, yet all the evidence (archaeological, documentary, etc) points to the flood occurring in the late 1520s.

The most compelling result of this mythology manufacturing was this year’s “Underground Empire” campaign that thoroughly spurned foreign visitation and promoted nationalism over education with a near-complete rewrite of local history; one that ignored medieval chronicles of events, written here by contemporary writers. Again, why this need to use the Walt Disney approach? The truth is much more fascinating and exciting than the modern fiction.

The past writings of prominent Thai archaeologists and historians support what I state above. Chiangmai University’s Sarasawadee Ongsakul criticised FAD’s level of professionalism in her Thai-language book about Wieng Kum Kam, Silpakorn’s Dhida Saraya admitted in her thesis-like tome on Sri Davarati that “Thailand’s first scientific excavation only took place in the early 1990s,” and even the producer of Suriyothai has been quoted as admitting he had to build his own city sets because those restored by FAD were inaccurate for the period.

Additionally, other much longer “in-country” foreign historians have seen Wat Phan Lao and conclude it is not a standard temple, that its arrangement supports a secular rather than religious use, and that it could originally have been defensive of the wieng’s north side. FAD refuse to discuss this.

In conclusion, I therefore urge each of you, in editorial and journalistic ways, please investigate this travesty that will continue to oppress local people’s understanding of their own history and heritage - I feel completely unable to pursue this matter in any way that would not reveal my disgust at this archaeological vandalism.

If they are capable of doing this here, then it calls into doubt the truth and integrity of what we see at Sukhothai, Sri Satchanalai, Ayutthaya, Phimai, and every other archaeological park in the kingdom. Did FAD’s in-house Disney-esque designer also create what we see in those locations today? Can we believe anything older than yesterday that any government department is associated with?

Thank you for taking time to read this.
Garry Harbottle-Johnson
(Author - Wieng Kum Kam, Atlantis of Lan Na)