HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Love of Music is our Bond!

Lampang Ceramics: Internal Disorder and External Threats

Luminous Anonymity-a feast for the eyes

Pai is a dream town in the mist

Love of Music is our Bond!

A Celebration of Christmas in Music and Dance

Marion Vogt
Photos Michael Vogt

As the days get closer to Christmas and the reality hits you that the real Christmas mood really is just a snowflake away, it is nice to know that there are people in town who take the effort to practice and rehearse Christmas songs to show that the real Christmas spirit does not need snow or ice, but is created in our heart.

Anne and Pun-Pun worked perfectly together. A superb musical stage set.

Since the spring concert in May 2003 was a sold out affair and the space just too small for the music lovers, the Chiang Mai Choral Society (CMCS) decided not only to extend the space, but to use the great aura of Gongdee Studios again, but on two consecutive nights.

During the 5 years of its existence, its reputation has spread and the Choral Society events are some of the most anticipated events of the year, and on Saturday they proved to be worthy of all the hype.

They began with a a selection of hymns such as ‘God So Loved’, ‘Holy Child’ or ‘Softly the Stars were Shining’ with a solo by Audra Philipps whose clear voice captured the attention of the audience, despite the colorful costumes of the choir, the sparkle of the Xmas tree, and the flying fingers of pianist David Wilson.

The audience enraptured when 10 year old Pun-Pun (Pitcha Tanuparprungsum) joined in during ‘Away in a Manger’, looking like a small Christmas angel herself in her long golden dress.

The second part of the program could easily be called the fun part, since it was music, entertainment, theater, dance, and Anne Dawson. The stage set had changed during the intermission to a living room, a grandmother chair, and Anne sitting with the ‘girl from next door’ (Pun-Pun), when the soft singing of ‘caroling caroling’ could be heard off stage. The choir entered and the second part was more like a play with the interaction of the choir with Anne, the conductor, the audience, and a duet between Ellen and Richard “Frankie-boy” Dixon, setting the tone for the incredible second part.

‘Jingle Bells’ afterwards got the audience joining in, clapping and laughing, while director Rainy Riding glowed with joy as everybody could see already what kind of success this evening was turning out to be.

After a piano solo of the multi-talented little Pun-Pun, a children’s ballet group from Aree School of Dance Arts followed, enjoyed by all. Dancing excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite, the grace of some of the mini-ballerinas left some spectators almost in tears.

To get back in the spirit, Anne Dawson read a story from the visit of St. Nicholas, and with the ballet children snuggling up to Anne, the choir attentively listening, and suddenly Santa walking in on it, looking as if he were straight out of a fairy tale, everyone was imbued with the spirit of Xmas.

The night ended with a united ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’, a night to remember - the music, the spirit, the feelings of love, the true meaning of Xmas, the bonds of friendship of the Choral Society. Everyone left with the feeling of goodwill to all people.

Richard Dixon, a living reincarnation of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, sang ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’.

Santa looked like straight out of a fairy tale - but where were the reindeers?

Waranan Pongcharoenkul spoke on behalf of the CMCS members to thank the audience for their contributions towards the less fortunate.

Aree School of Dance Arts came with 12 little ballerinas who danced an excerpt from the Nutcracker Suite.

The ‘living room’ on stage with the choir already in the festive joyful spirit.

Anne Dawson reading the story of St. Nicholas

‘Mr. Santa’ featured by the women’s octet with David Wilson on the piano.

Guess what Santa brought for the children in Chiang Mai? YES! Of course! Little Panda Bears!

Pun-Pun (Pitcha Tanuparprungsum) during the hymns, singing ‘Away in a Manger’.

Lampang Ceramics: Internal Disorder and External Threats

Comment on an important local industry

Alexei Andre Waters with Research assistance by Chayapat Ratchatawipasanan, Bunyawat Witthayalai School Lampang

The 16th Ceramics Fair in Lampang produced the greatest variety ever of ceramic products for the domestic market and for export, according the Lampang Ceramics Association. The estimated 220,000 visitors who attended the fair, held from December 2-10, generated about 20 million baht in revenue for the Lampang ceramics industry.

The usual sight of people shopping during the fair.

Beneath the surface of success, however, lie some serious threats to the future survival of the ceramics industry. Among the problems affecting the industry are unsophisticated marketing arrangements, investment bottlenecks, dated technology, labor recruitment problems, rising labor costs, the affects of Asian Free Trade Agreements and heightened competition from China.

In 2001, Lampang had 258 registered ceramics companies with 9,258 workers and officially generated 6.9 billion baht, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. Only 11 ceramic companies in Lampang export their ceramic products, reflecting the serious imbalance between domestic and export sales. Data from the Board of Investment indicate that about 80 percent of Thai ceramics are produced for the domestic market and only 20 percent for export. The main contributors to this production imbalance are low levels of capitalization, limited investment in research and development, poor designs and relatively high labor costs in comparison with Malaysia, Indonesia and of course, China.

This is a typical Issan style pattern, even if it looks Chinese on first sight.

In “The Comparative Advantage of the Ceramic Industry in Thailand,” submitted by Nukprach Chaiyanount in 1998 to Chiang Mai University for his M.A. thesis in Economics, he argued that Lampang produced bowl ceramics, railing and souvenir ceramic products, and although the least capital intensive, were the most cost efficient. Yet, his survey of Lampang ceramic factories indicated that unless Thais could produce their own high quality processing machines instead of relying on expensive imports and Thai export regulatory restrictions were reduced, it would become increasingly harder for Thailand to succeed.

High class porcelain which can be seen in many 5 star hotels around the world.

As the current Quadrangle Expo in Chiang Mai suggested, China’s shadow over northern Thailand is growing. Particularly in recent years, competition from China has had a negative impact on the Thai ceramics industry, affecting Lampang severely. For example, data released by the Thai Customs Department reveals that from January to October 2001, Chinese ceramic imports to Thailand were valued at over 319 million baht. During the same period two years later, the value of Chinese ceramic imports increased 3.2 times to over 1 billion baht.

This angel is mostly exported to Europe, but it can be also spotted at houses of rich Chinese families.

However, China’s lower labor costs and better designs are hardly the full story. Far more important is that Chinese companies are now gaining access to Thai kaolinite (white clay) in Lampang, refining it in China, creating various products that are then trans-shipped to Thailand. Despite high import tariffs, the cost is still cheaper and the designs are considered better.

Obtaining data on the ceramics industry in Thailand is difficult, doubly so for Lampang. The Lampang Ceramics Association collects no data from its members and neither does the Lampang Provincial Statistics Office and the Lampang Provincial Industrial Office have any data. Thus, the three most reliable sources of macro-economic data on Thailand’s ceramics industry can be obtained from the Bank of Thailand, The Thai Customs Department, and the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Business Economics. But the data collection process is far from efficient. For example, the Bank of Thailand essentially compiles data from the Board of Investment, the Trade and Economic Information Centre in cooperation with the Thai Customs Department and frequently obtains information from periodicals such as the Thai language Prachchat Business Newspaper. Under-reporting is a persistent problem and that makes it necessary for the Bank of Thailand to conduct periodic surveys of informal trade in many different industrial sectors.

The data collection process would be facilitated through a more transparent system at the firm level, but there is little enthusiasm among Lampang ceramic company owners to release their data. Besides banning photographs of factories or providing tours of their facilities, they also refuse to disclose rather mundane statistics on changes in export percentages by year and geographic region. “This is top secret information,” said a spokesman for the second largest ceramics company in Lampang. Other companies fail to respond to emails, formal letters and phone calls made in both English and Thai.

To place this unusually high degree of reticence in perspective, it is relatively easy to obtain permission to visit Thai schools and universities, review data on student performance, academic resources and pedagogical practices. The same applies with hospitals, and industries as diverse as computers and telecommunications. Even more surprising is that requests for information from the Chinese Ceramic Society and the Yunnan Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation and National Bureau of Statistics of China resulted in provincial level data within 48 hours.

Though exact reasons for the overly secretive nature of companies are nearly impossible to fathom, part of the problem may be that craft labor production has only recently assumed a higher profile in Thailand under the leadership of the Prime Minister Thaksin. Promotion of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) is the new business catchword with conferences and research forums proliferating in Chiang Mai and throughout the kingdom. The One Tambon One Product (OTOP) initiative is making some progress but has not resulted in greater economies of scale according to the 2002 Bangkok Post Mid Year Economic Review. The majority of the ceramic companies in Lampang have fewer than 20 employees, some have 50 and only the top 11 have more than 500 employees.

This is far different from craft labor production in England, France, Germany and Italy that historically was organized though guilds that became important politically during various phases of the first and second industrialization periods.

Thai Ceramic Exports (Millions of Baht)

1990.......... 3,741

1991.......... 4,468

1992.......... 5,677

1993........... 6,712

1994 ..........7,711

1995.......... 7,826

1996.......... 7,459

1997 ..........9,293

1998........... 12,306

1999........... 13,170

2000............ 19,208

2001............ 20,056

2002 ...........20,364

Jan 2003....... 1,824

Feb 2003 .........1,610

Mar 2003 .........2,330

Apr 2003.......... 1,579

May 2003 ..........1,696

Source: Bank of Thailand

Luminous Anonymity-a feast for the eyes

Gallery Opening at THE HOUSE

Marion Vogt

“The artist begins with a vision-a creative operation requiring an effort. Creativity takes courage,” (Henri Matisse). Matisse’s words ring true when looking at the recent exhibition of Austrian artist Doris Kraushaar. Doris is everything - courageous and creative, she has visions, and she makes an effort to combine and capture her moods in her paintings.

From left: Monika Weber, Kornchai, Ulrike and Narissa Thitasuta.

The night of the opening of her 5th Solo exhibition drew over 200 people, who were impressed again with the ambience that Hans B. Christensen, Managing Director of THE HOUSE, had yet again created. They could have chosen no one better than Doris Kraushaar, who has worked and lived in Chiang Mai for many years, as their first exhibitor.

Doris Kraushaar, Hans B. Christensen, Managing Director of THE HOUSE, sharing a light moment with Dr. Herbert Traxl, Austrian Ambassador to Thailand. (photo by Phisut Itsaracheewawat)

The presentation of the work with the color contrast of warm and cool colors on the starkness of bare white walls emphasized the strong lines of each form.

(From L): Dr. Herbert Traxl, Austrian Ambassador to Thailand; Doris Kraushaar, next to her the secretary at Dance for Life Academy; M.L. Preeyapun Sridhavat, Owner-Director of Chiangmai Ballet Academy and Honorary Consul to Peru; and Hagen Dirksen, Hon. Consul of the Fed. Republic of Germany to Chiang Mai.

Doris herself was very excited about the attention this exhibition has drawn from the Chiang Mai Community.

The Austrian Ambassador, Dr. Herbert Traxl, came from Bangkok, and combined this official opening with his first visit to the North. When you consider that only five Austrians are registered as living in the Chiang Mai area, the honor to have Dr. Traxl flying up was even greater.

Joon from Horeca Supplies with a friend, and Rudy van den Berg, posing in front of the colorful oil on wood painting ‘Comet in my garden’.

In this recent exhibition Doris’ paintings are filled with expressive energy and movement, as can be seen in a red Oil on Wood painting, named ‘Bouncing’. This time, all her paintings are very colorful compared to her prior work.

Noticing Doris bouncing through the gallery, talking here and listening there, you know that her paintings come from the heart, that she created them from within, allowing colors, shapes and motions to have a life of their own. Watching her talking to her three daughters you can feel that she is a person who creates an environment around herself that encourages self-expression and the freedom to create whatever the heart desires.

It was no surprise that by the end of the evening a number of her works showed the sticker ‘sold’.

Illuminated colored dreams, Art exhibition, can be seen at THE HOUSE until December 31.

Pai is a dream town in the mist

A must for adventurers traveling to Mae Hon Son

Chin Ratitamkul

Pai is small district town, situated in the Mae Hong Son provincial area, about 136 km northwest of Chiang Mai City. The road there was very long and tortuous and entails a 4-6 hr bus trip, or by bumpy pickup truck for 4 hours, orby motorbike, if you are a real adventurer.

Mok Fa waterfalls.

In the past, Pai was not a well known tourist town but it is now becoming a popular place to visit because of its rural and primitive charms, as almost 80 percent of the Pai people are farmers. On the way to Pai you will see ox and water buffaloes beside the zig-zag road leading to Mae Hong Son.

Tourism has changed the way of life in Pai .

There are interesting places en route, including the Mok Fa waterfalls, one of the highest waterfalls in the North, as well as Pong Duad, one of the largest hot springs in Thailand, and the Huay Nam Dang National park with its beautiful mountain views and scenery.

Many foreigners in Pai.

Night time in Pai is another adventure as you should not turn on too many lights because they will invite insects to join you. A romantic small candle is more suitable.

This year, during the high tourist season, there are many foreigners visiting the area. Kathrin Sele, 25, from Switzerland, told Chiangmai Mail that although Switzerland is full of beautiful mountains and landscapes, Pai has something different and special. “I want to see the different cultures and ways of life here,” said Kathrin. “I can go trekking, rafting, elephant riding, and have other adventures, there are so many things to do in Pai. Moreover, there is plentiful cheap accommodation such as guesthouses and bamboo huts on offer here,” Kathrin concluded.