Nopniwat Krailerg and
as a young man.
In August, 1962, one of Boonserm Satrabhaya’s greatest
achievements as a reporter took place when he entered the forest searching
for the Mlabri (Yellow Leaf people), the last group of wild people in
Thailand, of whom only about 300 still remain. He learned about this group
of people from Kraisri Nimmanheminda, a well known banker in Chiang Mai who
had read the story of Mlabri from a book written by a foreign anthropologist
and his Australian wife in 1936. That book stated that the Mlabri were in
Nan province of Thailand so the banker questioned how foreigners knew about
this group but Thais had never heard about it? He requested Boonserm to
investigate these people and publish their story for the Thai people.
Border patrol police were asked to search and survey
where the Mlabri could be found. The first point of search was in Na Noi
district, Boonserm was guided by hill tribesmen and they had to camp in the
forest before reaching their destination. A week passed and finally they
came across nine Mlabri warriors, strong well set up men who could speak the
Thai local language. Boonserm wrote the story about the Mlabri for Khon
Muang newspaper, illustrated with his own photographs, and he also took
movie film of the event.
After that, another daily newspaper, Siang Ang-thong (now
Thairath) wished to publish the story and Thais became very interested. On
one occasion, the King and Queen visited Phuping Palace and Kraisri (the
banker) presented the movie for them. The King said that it should be a
color movie recorded from the Mlabri’s location. In 1963, Kraisri invited
foreign specialists and doctors to travel with Boonserm to remake the movie
in color. Boonserm also took some pictures and added more information,
earning him the Best National Feature of the Year prize in 1962. He was the
first regional journalist to receive this award and he is very proud of this
picture of the 93rd division of Taipei ready to surrender and return to
Other great photographic moments took place throughout
his lifetime. He was chuckling as he remembered that in 1953 Chiang Mai
province had assigned him to release flysheets from a helicopter promoting
the Winter Fair, but he was so interested in taking pictures (his famous one
of Chiang Mai’s Nawarat Bridge comes from this occasion) that he forgot
about the flysheets so the helicopter had to fly around several times.
at Ton Lam Yai Market.
His last position as a reporter, after working for
several newspapers and publishing several books, was with Thai News
Publishing. He said that he had never studied photography but just gained
experience on his own. Some locations and scenes that were not interesting
to other people interested him and, as a result, he now has a unique
portfolio of historical and ethnic photographs.
Festival on Wittayanon Rd. showing a polite Songkran in those days.
Between 1950 to 1987 he had taken pictures without
printing them, simply developing films to check the exposure. If any picture
appeared not perfect then he would retake it and he archived them all very
carefully. One of his nephews asked for some of these pictures to make a
Calendar for the Year 1987 and some were used. When Pairat Techarin was
Chiang Mai governor, he requested these old pictures be put on display for
residents because he saw other countries showing historical pictures for new
generations. Until Chiang Mai Governor Wirachai Naewboonian’s period, he
continued this tradition by holding exhibitions at Kad Suan Kaew Department
Store as more people showed interest in these historical pictures.
Jeep used to get the news about Taipei troops fleeing in Burma.
Boonserm added that he wants the new generation to record
pictures of today for the next generation, but he does not see anyone
interested in this job because it depends on personal interest and not a
desire for immediate wealth. He suggested, “If you walk anywhere and see
an empty area then you should just take a picture because there may be a
building there or some changes in the future and the original image, which
was much more important, would be lost.”
“I still enjoy taking pictures but now I don’t have
much time because I have to put all my photographs in order,” Boonserm
Interested persons can contact him on 053-242850 or 09-3709725. His
studio is located at Chareunmuang Rd. Soi 8, first house from the right hand
with his flying gear as a young man.
at Ton Lam Yai Market, from another angle.
Bridge in the past.
aerial shot of Nawarat Bridge taken by Boonserm.
Mai’s different images between condominiums and slums.
used in World War I.
buddy to produce news – his typewriter.
Leaf people’s lifestyle.