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Wat Suan Dok hosts important ceremony

- Editorial Comment -

Wat Suan Dok hosts important ceremony

Royal relics venerated during Songkran

Jiraphat Warasin

The true spirit of Songkran was displayed by Chao Rattana na Chiang Mai Thippayadej, one of the descendants of the “Chao Jed Ton” (aristocratic lineage) family, at the 2004 Rod Nam Dam Hua blessing ceremony for “Chao Luang Chiang Mai” or the former Chiang Mai governors’ stupas.

Chao Wongsak na Chiang Mai lights the candles and incense sticks to pay respect to the Buddha image.

The ceremony was held at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai on April 17. It has taken place during the Songkran festival every year since the time of Phra Chaya Chao Dararassami, consort of King Rama V of the Chakri Dynasty.

Chao Jed Ton family members attend the ceremony which included Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat.

Chao Dararassami had gathered relics of her deceased royal relatives, which were previously stored in stupas located at “Kuang Meru” (where the Waroros Market is located today), and placed them together in the stupas at the Suan Dok temple.

Chao Wongsak na Chiang Mai was presented at the ceremony as the president of the “Chao Jed Ton” and Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai governor, as the president of the province. The two joined hands in presenting flowers and incense in front of the portrait of the first governor of Chiang Mai, while asking for permission and apologies as is the custom.

Afterwards, Nat na Chiang Mai, who was the representative of the descendants group, followed up the custom by bringing a bowl of sacred lustral water to sprinkle on the stupas of the former Chiang Mai governors.

The following are the names of the former governors whose relics are in the Wat Suan Dok Stupas: Phra Chao Kawila (1st Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Chao Luang Dhammalangka (2nd Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Chao Luang Setthikamphan (3rd Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Chao Luang Putthawong (4th Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Phra Chao Mahotaraprathej (5th Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Phra Chao Kawiroroj (6th Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Chao Inthawichayanon (7th Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Chao Inthawaroroj Suriyawong (8th Chiang Mai Chao Luang), Maj Gen Chao Kaewnawaraj (9th Chiang Mai Chao Luang).

- Editorial Comment -: The Shame of Songkran

Dr Iain Corness

After many years of attempting to ignore the situation, the central government finally agreed a couple of years ago that the Songkran road toll was too high. Various attempts have been made since then to correct the situation, but not with much success. Amongst these have been threats of breathalyzers being used to find the drunken drivers and get them off the road, gas stations not allowed to sell alcohol to minors, and posting police patrols to make sure motorcycle riders have a helmet on their heads (as they ride past). The rest of the time, the helmet, usually of questionable capabilities, is left in the wire carrier at the front of the machine, or if worn is not done up.

There is always a difference in Thailand between passing laws and then policing them. Particularly when the law is not popular with either public or police. So where does the government go from here?

The first, and dare I say it, very obvious proposal, is to limit exposure over Songkran. If you stand in the road for 12 hours a day, you are more likely to be knocked over than someone who only stands there for one hour a day. Simple logic that everyone can understand. Currently, Songkran lasts generally around one week, depending upon which part of the country you are in. So during Songkran you are metaphorically standing in the middle of the road for seven days. Even greater chance of getting knocked over.

The answer is some careful gazetting by the government. Make the third Saturday in April a national day of reverence towards one’s elders, not a water throwing day. Make the Sunday after the day of reverence, the national Songkran day for water fights. The same date, all over the country. Make the Monday after the water fight Sunday a recovery holiday with no water, and let everyone return to their homes.

In this way there is still a three day Thai New Year, there is the traditional respect to the elders, an important part of Thai society, there is a water fight fun day, and a day to recover as well. The length of time you are left at risk standing in the road is now only one day.

The end result of this would be a dramatic drop in the Songkran road toll, with no policemen standing on street corners attempting to enforce unenforceable legislation on an uninterested populace. It must be worth a thought. Surely?

The second nettle that the politicians are afraid to grasp, will have tangible benefits for the future safety of motorcyclists in Thailand, but not immediately. The government already has the statistics to show that 80 percent of road deaths are motorcycle riders. The government has to legislate the minimum standard of helmet approved in this country. Currently there is either no minimum, or it is so low it is ludicrous. The plastic crash helmets are suitable to hold ice cream, not brains.

It is not difficult to find this minimum standard. The government can adopt the standards as promulgated by the UK, EU, USA or Australia. There is no testing necessary by the government. Retail outlets are given 12 months grace, by which time all helmets for sale in Thailand must meet the minimum standard. The onus on achieving that standard rests with the manufacturers. Eventually, over the next couple of years, the helmets worn in this country will all meet that standard, as the ice cream buckets have a very limited life.

The final point is an amendment to existing legislation and refers to the wearing of safety helmets. All people carried on a motorcycle must wear a helmet (and I would not worry about specifying how many people) and all helmets must be done up. Thais will always go three, four or five up on a motorcycle until all Thais can afford motor cars. The government will then have adequately provided for, and protected, the group most at risk - the 80 percent of fatalities coming off motorcycles without adequate head protection.