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The Thai Nation celebrates HM the Queen’s 74th Birthday, August 12, 2006

The Thai Nation celebrates HM the Queen’s 74th Birthday, August 12, 2006

By Peter Commins : Special Correspondent for the Chiangmai Mail
(Photo courtesy Bureau of Royal Household)

The management and staff of the Chiangmai Mail join the Thai people and the many others from around the world, to present our loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and best wishes for a most Happy Birthday and a long life on the occasion of her 74th birthday, August 12, 2006.
HM Queen Sirikit was officially instated as Queen Somdej Phranang Chao by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej when he acceded to the Thai Throne as the Ninth Monarch of the Rama Dynasty on the fifth of May 1950. Her Majesty is known through this half century as the “Mother of all the Thais”.
HM Queen Sirikit’s birthday has always been celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand, which is appropriate for HM the Queen who is regarded by each and every Thai as the “Loving Mother of the Thai Nation”.
In fact, to further this analogy a little, when Their Majesties visited the United States in 1960, one of HM the Queen’s enduring - and perhaps prophetic remarks, vis-เ-vis her future role as Thailand’s Queen – was, “I love being a Mother.”
Early in their reign, when visiting remote areas the Royal Couple were disturbed by the plight of the rural people, the lack of educational and medical facilities and, not the least, poor nutrition, which aggravated all other problems. HM the King determined to take positive action to help the farmers, while Her Majesty focused on “the home”, seeking ways to enable the women-folk to earn cash to help alleviate the grinding and debilitating poverty.
Sirikit: Early Lean Years
Born on August 12, 1932, daughter of the then Thai Ambassador to France, Mom Chao Nakhatmongol and his consort Mom Luang Bua Sanitwongse, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kittiyakara was destiny’s child.
Following the end of WW II in 1945, the young Sirikit followed her father’s ambassadorial posting, first to the Court of St. James and then Paris. The beautiful Sirikit, whose name means “beauty and honour”, continued her education, studying language and music, aspiring to become a concert pianist.
But, lest one think that the future Queen was ‘pampered’ as a child, although the daughter of an upper-class family she often walked to school or rode the tram and, with the advent of World War II, the young girl’s movements and freedoms were quite restricted.
In 1948, Sirikit met her husband-to-be and the future King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, in Paris while both were studying in Europe, Bhumibol in Lausanne and Sirikit in Paris.
On July 19, 1949, the young couple announced their engagement at the Windsor Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland and returned to Thailand for their marriage on 28 April 1950. The new King and Queen of Thailand were married by HM Queen Sawang Vadhana, the paternal grandmother of His Majesty at the Sra Pathum Palace in Bangkok, on 28 April 1950.
Thus, Their Majesties have just celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary, and the nation enjoys Her Majesty’s 74th birthday knowing that in her tiny hands, all those years ago, Her Majesty was destined to up-raise the Thai people and improve life for each and every one of the some 60 million people who would become her subjects.
The ‘Support’ Foundation
Basically coinciding with HM the Queen’s 74th birthday this week is the 30th anniversary of the founding, on 21 July 1976, of the Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, popularly known by the acronym SUPPORT. The foundation was established to place, on a more formal basis, the activities started by HM the Queen, using her own funds, to establish cottage industries for village and farm women, “without the necessity of leaving home.”
Her Majesty supplied weaving looms and materials to make fabrics, clothing and soft goods, as well as providing equipment to produce other marketable items. Having lived in Europe for many years, HM the Queen was conversant with the enormous diversity of European arts and culture and thus recognized the variety of crafts and styles distinctive to different regions of Thailand: hand-woven fabrics, basket-ware and rattan products, utensils and a myriad other artefacts.
Her Majesty is justifiably famous for her clear perception and this rose to remarkable heights with her outstanding vision for making SUPPORT into a viable proposition. She brought back from retirement former court artisans to teach presumably lost crafts to a ‘new generation’ - even grandmothers.
HM the Queen’s advice to the ‘retirees’ was that, “Before they urged the villagers to make anything, they must be certain that the end product is marketable - and not made for charity alone, which does not provide a real livelihood. SUPPORT is designed to make the villagers self-reliant,” HM the Queen emphasized.
Particular stress was placed upon bringing physically-handicapped people to work at SUPPORT projects, raising their confidence and creating a satisfaction for each person who was, thus, achieving a level of self-reliance by being able to earn an income - and not having to rely on charity or handouts to survive.
Mudmee Silk is but one of HM the Queen’s legacies to the Foundation. It was Her Majesty who ‘resurrected’ this almost-forgotten weaving craft, indigenous to the northeast. Mudmee, meaning literally ‘tied threads’, is an intricate ‘tie and die’ process which produces brilliant colours, each piece being unique and the pattern is the individual imagination of the weaver - there are no blueprints to follow.
Due to Her Majesty’s guidance, as well as to her wearing of mudmee at official functions in Thailand and abroad, mudmee silk is universally known as a distinctive, exotic and outstandingly beautiful Thai artefact.
In July, 2004, HM the Queen presided over the opening of the Fourth Treasures of the Kingdom, hosted by the Support Foundation and, last year, sponsored by the Royal Initiated Projects, HM the Queen opened the new Breast Cancer Medical Centre at the Thai red Cross Chulalongkorn Hospital.
Conservation Projects Help
The People
Although probably best known for the SUPPORT Foundation, HM the Queen’s great determination to raise the living standards and improve the quality of life for the Thai people has led to many other projects, beneficial to the people and Nature equally. For example, there are the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, The Forest Loves Water and The Little House in the Big Forest Projects.
During her ongoing visits - often with the King and other members of the Royal Family - to the remotest and poorest areas of the country, Her Majesty soon realized that it was preservation and wise use of the natural resources and environmental protection which were the imperative components in striking a balance between the welfare of human settlements and Nature.
HM the Queen was most disturbed by the deterioration of these vital elements, particularly the water resources, which she observed on each visit, were either becoming depleted or badly degraded. The end result was a further blow to the well-being and improved way of life for even her least subjects.
Her Majesty encouraged the people, “To bond together in order to protect the forests which are sources of the watershed and natural food,” and at the same time, “exhorted the people to use natural resources properly and efficiently, to achieve sustainable benefits.” She also urged the people to become self-reliant and, “To grow food and garden crops, to undertake a comprehensive cultivation of herbal plants and raise animals as a food source.”
One outcome of this loving care for even the least of her subjects has been the establishment in 1996 of the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, located at the Mae Rim District in Chiang Mai Province.
The Garden was opened to serve as a Thai plant conservation centre where botanical research and study is undertaken to maintain the vast biodiversity of Thai flora. This includes collection and propagation of indigenous, rare and endangered species of flora. Thai orchids, herbal plants and a vast array of native woods are conserved here, as part of HM the Queen’s legacy to present and future generations.
In 1997 and 1998, HM the Queen initiated a project to establish three demonstration farms, two of which are in Chiang Mai Province at Baan Khun Tae, Moo 5, Chom Thong District and at Baan Mae Tungting, Moo 5 Samoeng District. The third is located in Chiang Rai province, at Baan Rom Fah Thong, Moo 9, Viang Kaen District.
HM the Queen regularly visits these remote areas to see, at first-hand, how the quality of life is improving for the farmers who now have secure occupations and are husbanding different types of animals for food. Equally-importantly, agricultural workers are now protecting the forest, wildlife and the watershed - in fact, the environment as a whole - from any further degradation.
In Ubon Ratchathani, close by the border of Laos, lies a natural forest called Dong Na Tham, a huge area covering some 50,000 rai (approx. 80 million sq. metres). The hardships and poverty of the people in the surrounding villages had caused the villagers to encroach on the natural reserve, with disastrous results to the environment and ecology.
Based on His Majesty the King’s philosophy of a “sufficiency economy”, HM the Queen initiated a number of alternatives to the near-destitute workers on the land, with a most positive change, both to the people’s lives and the surrounding environment.
HM the Queen recently pointed out that “the forest is a water resource for the people. Without forests, or if we keep destroying the trees, though we gain more land, we will lose all water supplies and the land ... will become a desert. Forests should exist to preserve life and water and maintain the rainfall which helps us to a better living,” HM the Queen added.
Nothing within the context of Their Majesties’ concern for the sustainable use of natural resources, be it turtle conservation or the plight of elephants facing extinction, escapes HM the Queen’s attention and follow-up action.
The pachyderm situation has, just recently, become a rather moot subject, following the assignation of elephants to the Melbourne and Taronga Park (Sydney) Zoos.
Counter to this, the ‘Elephant Re-introduction Scheme,’ proposed by Her Majesty and supported by the World Wildlife Fund, has witnessed a number of elephants being returned to the forest so, as Her Majesty said in 1997, “They can live out their lives in their natural habitat – the forest.”
In the case of the turtles, noting that they were becoming an endangered species, mainly due to the stealing of turtle eggs, in 1979, HM the Queen initiated a Marine Turtle Conservation Project, located off Rayong, in the Gulf of Thailand.
As the whole Thai nation - and much of the rest of the world - was aware last month during the splendid international celebrations honouring the 60th anniversary of HM the King’s accession to the Thai throne, there has always been a strong bond between the Japanese and Thai Royal households.
Certainly, an earlier manifestation of this came in November 2004, when HM the Queen was cited during a World Conservation Congress, “For her continuing efforts in protecting and re-vitalizing the forests, wildlife and the environment.”
The award, the first ever made since the Congress was founded in 1948, was a stunning gold medal, engraved with the visage of HM the Queen while releasing turtles back into the waterways. Her Imperial Highness, Japan’s Princess Takamado was selected to make the presentation at the Congress.
Thai People
Celebrate HM’s Successive
Birthdays
The Thai people have been continually celebrating the birthday of the Beloved Queen. For example, one of the earlier events was four years ago, shortly after Her Majesty’s 70th birthday, when a splendid gala, featuring a Thai silk fashion show - appropriately called “Queen of Silk” - was held in Her Majesty’s honour at Government House.
The highlight of the spectacular evening was the conferring upon HM the Queen the Louis Pasteur Award by the International Sericultural Commission and the Brussels Eureka 2001, a singular honour presented by the National Research Council of Thailand.
Concomitantly, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives commissioned a special musical tribute called “Mai Rak” (Love of Silk), “In appreciation of Her Majesty’s role and activities in Thai silk and developing it to a world standard over the past five decades.”
These accolades coincided with the staging of the 19th Congress of the International Sericultural Commission - the first time Thailand has ever had the occasion to host this prestigious event. Thus it was a fitting tribute to Her Majesty, witnessed by some 500 sericulture experts from more than 23 countries who attended the Congress.
There has been an almost endless list of tributes to Her Majesty over the past few years, ranging from a nation-wide planting of one million trees to concerts, fashion parades, and even a world record sky-diving performance.
There is a Queen’s cook-book, the opening of a “Butterfly Garden” and, certainly not the least, two highly-prestigious awards from the United States acknowledging HM the Queen’s role in preserving Thai crafts and her humanitarian assistance to the Thai people, refugees and wildlife.
It is difficult to single out specific honours accorded HM the Queen recently, but rather, it is better to list some of them, in random order:
The 2004 Aid to Artisans Award: for the Preservation of Thai crafts, presented at a Gala Dinner in New York on February 2, 2004.
The Marshall Legacy Institute’s Annual International Award 2003, for HM the Queen’s work in helping improve the lives of people and protecting wildlife. Upon the presentation of this award in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2004, the director of the institute, which is dedicated to the removal of landmines, pointed out that “Her Majesty had played an important role in promoting the welfare of Thais, with special emphasis on the poor and refugees.”
At the end of 2003, Her Majesty gave permission to print 500 copies of Her recipes in a cookbook entitled “Kin Tam Mae” (“Eating as Her Majesty Does”) which stresses the benefits of good food that she prepares for her own family.
The Public Health Ministry said, “The book was a demonstration of Her Majesty’s kindness and it underscored the Public Health Ministry’s declaration of 2004 as ‘The Year for Safe Food’.”
A world record of 672 skydivers from 42 countries leaped from six C-130 military transport planes early last year, unfurling on their descent a gigantic Thai flag to honour HM the Queen.
HM the Queen’s Gallery, opened on Rajadamnoern Klang Avenue opposite the Golden Temple in honour of Her Majesty’s 71st birthday in 2003, is Bangkok’s newest art center and, as well as a collection of portraits of HM the Queen painted by HM the King, the art and museum pieces on display have been contributed by galleries and private collectors world-wide.
There have been cultural performances, soloists and many musical tributes to HM the Queen, herself a skilled classic pianist.
Deep Concern
For The South
Her Majesty has been very concerned by the troubles and violence which beset the southern provinces, continuing until now, with killing and mayhem in the mainly-Muslim southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.
In a gesture of heartfelt sympathy for the plight of victims of extremism, last year HM the Queen purchased 600 rai of land to allow homes to be built for widows and bereaved families of those killed in the violence.
Her Majesty’s concern is, indeed, so profound that, disregarding any idea of personal safety, she extended her usual visit to this troubled area to gain a better insight into ways and means of alleviating the bloodshed and violence.
Conclusion
It was at the presentation of the “Turtles Medallion” in November 2004, that Her Majesty addressed her lasting legacy to her subjects and future generations: “My dream is that one day, ordinary people everywhere will have a greater desire to protect their children’s future livelihood by not only refraining from harming the environment themselves, but also by helping the authorities to prevent others from doing so.”
The foregoing reports could be summarized in Her Majesty’s own words, emphasizing her humanity, goodwill and, not the least, her humour. “Has HM the King encouraged you to concentrate on work for the well-being of the people?” HM the Queen was once asked in an interview. “He did not encourage me at all ... he ordered me to,” HM the Queen replied. “I will look after the land and the farmers and you must look after their families,” HM the King said.
Happy 74th Birthday Your Majesty from all of us here at Chiangmai Mail.