HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Foundation for the handicapped receives donation for wheel chairs

River of Kings Festival this week

Grand Lanna wedding attracts princes and actors to Chiang Mai

New Thai Lanna Spa president hoping for government hand-outs

Rabbie Burns - Scotland’s famous bard remembered

Princesses (and princes) - No peas please!

Foundation for the handicapped receives donation for wheel chairs

Chantawee Punmira

Don Willcox, deputy president of the Creative Foundation for the Handicapped received a monetary donation to go towards wheel chairs.

Don Willcox, the deputy president of the foundation receiving the donation for the Creative Foundation for Handicapped.

Don said, “The foundation was established in 1993 to support and encourage health, education, careers and social values of the handicapped living in the north of Thailand. The foundation has set up several projects, such as the free medicine facility for handicapped children at Baan Wiang Ping (Home for Boys), the vocational Center at Yad Fon Center in Chiang Mai and free distribution of polio flyers. The Foundation and the Yad Fon Vocational Center also arrange computer studies for these people. In the first two years there were 58 graduates from the computer class. The foundation also provides equipment, such as canes, steel leg braces, artificial limbs, wheel chairs, motorcycle attachments and arranges parking lots for the handicapped at department stores.

This voluntary foundation is funded by donations from those concerned about the plight of more than 10,000 Thai handicapped. Those interested to donate should contact 053 240 935 directly. Donations can be received via money transfers to the account number 501-1-13375-7 at the SCB bank Thapae Branch.

River of Kings Festival this week

Jeffrey Studebaker

Traditional Thai performances spiced up with modern pyrotechnics will adorn the dark waters of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River every evening during the River of Kings Festival from February 11 to 24.

The festival is financed primarily by the Bangkok Tourist Bureau (BTB), with more than three million baht (US$75,000). Other sponsors include the Royal Household and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Event organiser, CM Organiser CEO, Sermkhun Khunawong, said the 2005 event is set to be more spectacular in terms of technology.

Two shows are featured nightly from 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets for seats on a floating stadium by the pier start from 400 baht and may be reserved by calling the Grand Palace office (tel: 0 2222 8181). The Riverside Hotel (tel: 0 2883 1588) offers river cruises during the event for 800 baht.

Grand Lanna wedding attracts princes and actors to Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang

Fifty-five couples from around the world have booked to celebrate their marriage vows at a legendary Lanna wedding ceremony to be held at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort in San Kamphaeng district of Chiang Mai during February 26-28.

Kanok Abhiradee, President of Thai Airways said that Thai Airways, the United Broadcasting Corporation and the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort launched the package to promote Thai tourism.

Amongst the distinguished participants are Nepalese prince, Vivak Basnet, 28, and his fianc้ Ayasama Rana; and Gally Estrada, 25, the actor son of former Filipino president, Joseph Estrada, who is to marry Bernadette Alison.

Thai Airways also launched a “Loving Phuket” package to attract movie producers to make film and TV commercials at Thailand’s beach venue.

New Thai Lanna Spa president hoping for government hand-outs

Chantawee Punmira

The Thai Lanna Spa Association held its first meeting for 2005 with Dr. Rattawut Sukmee, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office, presiding, at the Angsana Spa in Chiang Mai Green Valley Golf Court.

Chawanus Sinthukaew, was voted in as President this year to mange the association from 2005–2006. She presented the board and the committees who would work under the Thai Lanna Spa Association for the first time. The members immediately asked the new board to set clear regulations for the standards of spa businesses.

Witthaya Tatiyamorn, secretary of Thai Lanna Spa Association, explained that there were 52 spa businesses from the eight provinces of the upper north. The government has become interested since it considers spas as one of the eleven strategies to support Chiang Mai as a center for the advancement of tourism. A 780 million budget in 2005 will be distributed by the government to improve the province and some of the budget will be given to the spa association, he hoped.

Rabbie Burns - Scotland’s famous bard remembered

Watcharapong Jingkaujai and Editorial staff

For anyone who has more than one drop of Scottish blood in their veins, January 25 is an important date. Robert Burns, a poor crofter’s son, was born on January 25 1759, and rose through an enormous poetic talent to become the most famous of Scottish poets.

Adam Flinn (1st right), the organizer of the Burns Night, and Rob Roy (2nd left), the chief of the Scottish community in Chiang Mai.

Since Scotland is known, not just for oatmeal and whisky, but also for the emigration of its people all over the world, Chiang Mai has its fair share of Scots, who came out on the bard’s birthday, as did Scots everywhere.

Participants in the traditional kilt.

Adam Flinn organized the Chiang Mai event and Rob Roy, the chief of the Scottish community in Chiang Mai, presided over the evening.

A candle lit dinner was given at which the traditional Scottish dishes were presented, with the most important being the Haggis, a dish that is encased in a sheep’s stomach and has to be addressed using the bards immortal words,

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.”

Following the traditional address, the haggis is ritually stabbed with a ‘skean dhu’ the small Scottish dagger, and distributed amongst the guests, and the evening then becomes one of song and dance, with copious amounts of alcohol, a commodity that Scots are famous for producing, and drinking! Rabbie Burns himself was no exception.

After Auld Lang Syne was played, the Kana Chiang Mai gymnasium on the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road was not the place to be without a kilt!

Princesses (and princes) - No peas please!

Dr. Rebecca Lomax

Ten years ago David and Asa Stevenson were caring for a few Akha children who had been living on the streets in Chiang Mai. Some were originally trafficked into the city to provide sex services for pedophiles; some had come looking for work to help their desperately poor families. As word spread among the kids about the Stevenson’s work, more and more children and their families sought their help.

The smiles and the bunch of mattresses say it all

By January of 2000, the Stevensons were forced to look for a place to expand the program. They purchased land in Mae Suay near Chiang Rai and built a home and dormitory for thirty children who were at risk of being sexually exploited because of extreme and long term poverty. Rotary Clubs, churches and individuals responded with help, but the Stevensons could barely keep up with the need. Today, the Children of the Golden Triangle, Inc. provides shelter, life skills training, education and vocational skills to 315 Akha, Lisu, Lahu, and mixed race girls and boys who are at risk of being neglected, abused or sexually exploited. Over 400 children and their families sought help in 2004, but the Stevensons could only take in 130. Another 50 will be accepted in April of 2005; another 50 in September.

Both Asa and David grieve that they cannot do more, but they take children based on “the poorest of the poor, the most desperate”. Consider the plight of two little boys who had been orphaned at ages five years and five months. The older child cared for the infant until village people brought the pair to the Children of the Golden Triangle. Today their energy, smiles and apparent good health tell the story of almost five years of loving care.

Last weekend the Children of the Golden Triangle had a nice surprise. A big truck loaded with over 200 thick, soft, and colorful mattresses arrived in Mae Suay; the mattresses a gift from an anonymous donor. The Stevensons said it took the older children “about 15 minutes” to unload the mattresses and stack them neatly in the storage room. New dormitories are being constructed and the mattresses will both replace old, worn ones that are in use and go into the new dormitories to wait for the incoming children. There were no haughty princesses looking for peas under these mattresses, just the happy smiles of children whose futures are brighter because of the work of Asa and David Stevenson and their volunteers.