HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thai Heritage Preservation Day marked in colorful ceremony at Wiang Thakan

HIV-infected children enjoy fun-filled summer camp

Wat Pan Ping Vihara destroyed by fire

Rotary, ring pulls and artificial limbs offer new lease on life

Thai Heritage Preservation Day marked in colorful ceremony at Wiang Thakan

Government asked to provide more funds for this event

Jiraphat Warasin

Thai Heritage Preservation Day was marked in a colorful ceremony earlier this month with the opening of the Wiang Thakan city gates, the ancient city in San Patong district about 30 kilometers south of Chiang Mai.

The Bodhi Tree, brought in at the instigation of King Mengrai (B.E.1804-1854), is still alive in Wiang Thakan.

Wiang Thakan villagers and Ban Klang community residents took part in the festivities at the city’s historical park that is over 1,000 years old.

The starting day for the ceremony was chosen to coincide with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s birthday.

Youths join in the parade, beating drums, cymbals and gongs.

The ceremony began with worshipping ancestors and Wiang Thakan city founders. It was held at the city’s corner-gates: Ngiew Gate, Pu Hoi Gate, Hua Wiang Gate and East Gate. It included a colorful and stunning Tung parade of long-tailed and colorful flags in Lanna kingdom style.

The tall sticks with fans the men carry represent this parade, with the silver and golden fans believed to bring gold, silver and riches to the villagers.

The atmosphere of the ceremony reflected the unity of the Wiang Thakan villagers.

Wiang Thakan was founded in the Lanna era. It can be reached by travelling from Chiang Mai City and going along the Chiang Mai-Hod Road, then turning left at the Tungsiew intersection and continuing through Ban Tongok village about two kilometers further.

Ancient Chedis are scattered around the Wiang Thakan ancient site.

The village name, Thakan, comes from the word taka (crow, in northern dialect). Legend has it that an albino crow was about to land in the village. The villagers noticed it and became afraid that its landing could be a bad omen and bring troubles to them.

Thus, they chased it away.

Finally, the villagers became associated with the word Taka, and it became the name of the village, Ban Taka (the word “ban” meaning village).

Youth in the parade dressed in their best traditional Thai clothing.

However, in 1997, the abbot of Thakan temple saw that the word Taka was not in the written language and modified it into Ban Thakan.

The name Wiang Thakan first appeared during the reign of King Mengrai (B.E.1804-1854) as “Wiang Pantanakarn” (The Confined City). The Bodhi Tree was brought in from Ceylon at the instigation of King Mengrai who decided to have it planted in Wiang Pantanakarn. It is still alive today.

Some ancient remains and objects can still be found in the area.

There are three great historical cities in the Upper North - Chiang Saen in Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai’s Wiang Kum Kam and Wiang Thakan. However, the historical remains at Wiang Thakan are the most explicit, joined in a cluster. The city is also one of two ancient cities in Thailand where the octagonal Chedi Luang (Grand Pagoda) or Gu Luang, constructed in Suwanjanggoth style, can still be seen. The other is at the Charma Dhevi temple in Lamphun province.

These critters are the “kaling - kala”, animals in the legend of the local people - who believe that they would bring luck and fortune to the villagers.

Wiang Thakan was reconstructed in 1985 with the inspection of Ajarn Surapol Damrikul, head of the department of 4th fine arts unit in Chiang Mai. Its villagers were granted the shield of honor from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in 1988.

The parade featured drums, gongs, and Tung flags, and was followed by people carrying stripped down sticks that they believe would to bring morals and cheers to them. This parade was traditionally held to bring good luck and victory during war.

Tiamtan Panya, chairman of Ban Klang Tambon Administration Organization and Suwit Arthit, its secretary and a committee member of Wiang Thakan Community Service, said that the reconstruction, renovation and the development of Wiang Thakan have not been supported by the authorities as much as should have been the case.

Many elders participated in the ceremonies.

At a seminar in February, academics and archaeologists agreed that Wiang Thakan is a historical city that still is fully alive, thanks to the efforts of its villagers to preserve it. Therefore, it was appropriate to promote Wiang Thakan as a tourist stop and have its name included on the Chiang Mai south sightseeing map.

The women dressed up in red and carried offerings, called locally “mak plu and mak beng”- which means paying respects to the sacred spirits at the Wiang Thakan ancient remains.

Wiang Thakan still requires restoration. But budget constraints have prevented this, so it is not promoted effectively and continuously.

Even this month’s ceremony had to be financed with a paltry 21,000 baht from the TAO budget and community donations.

TAO administration members and a committee set up by the community had tried contacting Chiang Mai Recreation and Sports Center, which is directly responsible for tourism. However, it claimed to be newly established and subsequently did not have personnel to assist.

Therefore, Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat has been asked to directly acknowledge the problem of Wiang Thakan and allocate a budget for it comparable to Wiang Kum Kam’s budgetary allocation.

HIV-infected children enjoy fun-filled summer camp

Autsadaporn Kamthai

HIV-infected children were recently treated to a fun-filled summer camp through the support of the Hole in the Wall Foundation.

Last week’s camp was a pilot project of Paul Newman’s foundation in Southeast Asia. It was jointly organized with Rotary Club 3360 of Sarapee and Thai Youth AIDS Prevention (TYAP).

Dr Ratree Pimpant and Viwat Sirijangkapattana from Rotary 3360 signed a MOU partnership contract with Jesus Puerto, a representative of the Hole in the Wall Foundation after agreeing to team up to work for children with life-threatening diseases.

Almost one-hundred HIV-infected children between the ages of 10-15 years, from many local schools in the Chiang Mai areas, took part in the camp that kicked off on April 24 at Huai Hong Krai Royal Development Study Center in Doi Saket district.

The first session ran from April 24-28 with 33 girls and 24 boys. The second session was due to take place from May 1-5 with another 40 children.

The children stayed at the Huai Hong Krai Center and visited other places, including Chiang Mai Zoo, Mae Sa Elephant Camp and Wang Tarn Resort.

On the second day, the children were taken to Chiang Mai Zoo to spend a leisurely day viewing the animals. The two pandas were their favorites (of course). The children appeared very cheerful because some of them had never been to a zoo before and really enjoyed joining in the activities arranged for them.

This camp was the first activity in Southeast Asia sponsored by the famous Hole in the Wall Foundation.

Paul Newman, movie star and philanthropist, founded it in 1988. To date, the foundation has run five camps in the United States and Europe for more than 7,000 children with serious diseases. Two more camps will be run in the US within the next 12 months and another camp is being held in Israel. The foundation also has partners in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Malawi.

The foundation aims to provide recreational and therapeutic activities for children with serious diseases and life-threatening conditions. All the activities and camps are provided for the targeted children free of charge.

“We decided to launch the first program of Southeast Asia in Chiang Mai because we saw strong organizations like TYAP and Rotary 3360 which had high potential in arranging the activities for the children in Chiang Mai,” said Lou Berholz, a Hole in the Wall staffer.

A permanent Hole in the Wall camp may be established in Thailand in the next few years, said Berholz.

Warawut Amput, one of TYAP’s staffers who spent all 10 days taking care of and entertaining the kids, said that the activities provided aimed at building the children’s appreciation of life and teaching them how to live happily in their surroundings.

(From left) Tawee Pingtagae, next year’s government of Rotary 3360, American Consul General Eric Rubin, Viwat Sirijangkapattana, district governor 2003-04 district 3360, and Dr Ratree Pimpant, president of Rotary Club 3360 Sarapee, at the opening ceremony of the camp.

Viwat Sirijangkapattana (right), district governor 2003-04 district 3360, presents a shield of honor to Hole in the Wall’s staffers (from 2nd left) Julia “Jintana” Porter, Lou “Maloon” Berholz and Jesus Puerto. Dr Ratree Pimpant, the president of Rotary 3360, also congratulated them.

Limbo was one of the recreational activities they enjoyed during the camp.

The children, who enjoyed their first day at the camp, are shown here with their toy animal balloons while waiting for the opening ceremony.

Singing and clapping together, and they could sing really pleasant songs!

Hurry up! Reach the line before the balloons burst or get away.

Children proudly present their beautiful drawings of the animals they were impressed with during their half day visit the zoo.

Wat Pan Ping Vihara destroyed by fire

Despite lacking funding, monks have begun restoration

Autsadaporn Kamthai

The main Vihara of Wat Pan Ping on Rajapakinai Road is still a ruin after it was destroyed by fire 18 months ago.

The main Vihara of Wat Pan Ping has been left in ruins.

The fire took hold at the 525 years old Vihara, caused by an electric short circuit and destroyed 70 percent of the building. Fortunately, the Buddha images in the Vihara were not destroyed, and they are still kept in the wrecked temple.

Local Buddhists still gather at Wat Pan Ping for ceremonies, sermons and making-merit, which now have to be held at the Sala behind the Vihara instead.

Inside the Vihara

“Two years ago, after the fire, the Religious Affairs Department said it would pay for the renovation of the temple. The Fine Arts Department estimated it would cost 9 million baht. However, it would be much more today because the price of steel has increased,” a novice at the temple said.

The roof of the Vihara was severely damaged.

In addition, the temple up to now has not received any finance for the renovation. The temple has only about 1 million baht from donations and money gained from the ceremony of offering new robes to monks - far less than it needs for reconstruction.

The main Buddha images of the temple are still kept inside the burnt Vihara.

“Actually, all the monks and novices at Wat Pan Ping would really have liked to see the Vihara reconstructed long ago because they cannot bear seeing it ruined. The temple has decided to reconstruct it this month, even though it does not have sufficient funds at the moment,” the novice said.

“Anyone who would like to give financial support to Wat Pan Ping to renovate the Vihara can contact the temple directly,” he added.

Rotary, ring pulls and artificial limbs offer new lease on life

Marion Vogt

What does Rotary, ring pulls and artificial limbs have in common? They are each a small part of a whole to help the handicapped.

In 1992, HRH Princess Mother Sri Nagarindra inaugurated the Prosthesis Foundation under the direction of Dr Therdchai Jivacate, with the aim of providing free prostheses to amputees irrespective of race or religion. But in order to make them available to all, they had to be made from locally available materials.

Ron Thatcher (left), past president of the Rotary Club of Armadale Neerigen Brook Perth, in Western Australia, and Dr Therdchai Jivacate, standing in front of a photo of the late HRH Princess Mother Sri Nagarindra. (Photo by Hope Watchara)

Thailand’s handicapped youth stems mainly from motorcycle accidents, but other causes include land mines and even diabetes left untreated.

Since August 1992 Dr Therdchai, a specialist in artificial limbs, has been making legs with parts made from recycled aluminium to make them lighter, rust-free and easier to use. He even designed different kinds of legs, one like a waterproof stick with a chunky base for farmers to use in the fields, another shaped to resemble a normal leg and cost about 1,000 Baht each to make.

(From left) Dr. Therdchai Jivacate, Ron Thatcher and Hope Watchara, the president of Rotary Club of ThinThaiNgam, at the new building in Donkaew, Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai. (Photo by Hope Watchara)

Hope Watchara, the president of Rotary Club of ThinThaiNgam, had her first contact with the foundation in July 2002. She sat down with Ron Thatcher, a Rotarian from Western Australia and they had the idea of shipping ring pulls from Australia to Thailand. Ron went back to Australia, talked to his Rotary district governor Bob Lyons and they decided to make it a district project.

They involved the schools, the universities and many people in their communities to collect ring pulls from soft drink cans to help the handicapped in northern Thailand.

For two years, school children all over the district have collected ring pulls which were then melted down. The aluminium was sold to be recycled and Ron returned to northern Thailand to hand deliver a cheque of USD 2,800 to Dr Therdchai.

The foundation can provide all types of prostheses. Sockets are made for both above and below prostheses. A ventilation system that reduces heat within the socket is included, so amputees feel comfortable and fungal infections are reduced.

Dr Therdchai’s proposal for a new building also came through. It has training and technicians rooms, and everything is for free for the patients who are given free lodging and free fittings. For many of them, a life which otherwise would have seen them end up on the street as beggars has now started to be worthwhile again.

Rotary past president Ron Thatcher will take photos back to the children in the schools of Western Australia and tell them that their efforts will always be remembered. He promised that the ring pull collection will be an ongoing project and he is already looking forward to the delivery of the next cheque.