Long Live Her Majesty Queen Sirikit
Caring Mother of the Thai Nation
By Peter Cummins
Chiangmai Mail Special Correspondent
Photos courtesy Bureau of the 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 75th birthday, 12
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-à-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 the Queen focused on “the home”, seeking ways to
enable the women-folk to earn cash to help alleviate the grinding and
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.
12 June 2006 Their Majesties
the King and Queen receiving Monarchs and Members of Royal Families who came
to attend the Sixtieth Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty’s Accession
to the Throne at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace.
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
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 grand-mother of His Majesty at the Sra
Pathum Palace in Bangkok, on 28 April, 1950.
Thus, Their Majesties have just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary,
and the nation enjoys Her Majesty’s 75th birthday, knowing that in her tiny
hands, all those years ago, Sirikit 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.
10 December 2005, Her Majesty
the Queen conversing with the local populace during a visit to Tha Rae
Village, Akat Amnuai District, Sakon Nakhon Province.
Basically coinciding with the Queen’s 75th birthday, this week,
is the 31st 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 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 urge 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,” the
Particular stress was placed upon bringing physically-handicapped people to
work at SUPPORT projects, raising their confidence and creating 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
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, two years ago,
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
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.
23 February 2006 Her Majesty
the Queen and Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain observing handicraft products
made by students of the SUPPORT Foundation at Bang Pa-in Palace, Bang Pa-in
District, Phara Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province
During her ongoing visits - often with HM 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
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
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.
14 October 2005 Her Majesty
the Queen conversing with local monks and lmams who were grateful for Her
Majesty’s concern over the situation in the three southern provinces of
Thailand, during a visit to the Model Farm Project, Khok Rai Yai Village,
Su-ngai Padi district, Narathiwat Province.
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
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 m 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
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
The pachyderm situation has, just recently, become a rather moot subject,
following the proposed 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 year 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 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.
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 five 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.
Her Majesty Queen and Russian
President Vladimir Putin examine an item from a folk arts exhibition of
Queen Sirikit’s “Support” Foundation in the Kremlin in Moscow, Thursday,
July 5, 2007. (AP Photo)
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 2 February, 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
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
The Public Health Ministry said that “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, early in 2005, leaped
from six C-130 military transport planes, 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.
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
In a gesture of heartfelt sympathy for the plight of victims of extremism,
in 2005 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
Most recently, HM the Queen has been encouraging Buddhist monks to return to
the south, to help bring peace to this troubled region. In July 2007, HM the
Queen introduced a plan to reopen abandoned Buddhist monasteries and temples
that had been abandoned because Islamic separatists had targeted them as
symbols of Thailand’s Buddhist majority in the Kingdom’s southern provinces.
She called on Buddhist monks to go south and live in the empty monasteries
during the three three-month Buddhist Lent. As many as 350 monks have heeded
HM the Queen visits Russia
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit recently took a state visit to the
Russian Federation at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej graciously designated Her Majesty the
Queen as His representative, who arrived in Moscow on July 2, toured several
cities, and returned to Thailand on July 11. Her Majesty the Queen’s visit
coincided with the celebration of the 110th anniversary of Thai-Russian
diplomatic relations when King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) visited Russia in
President Putin hosted a state banquet at the Kremlin, where Thai
handicrafts from the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary
Occupations and Related Techniques under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty
the Queen were displayed to promote Thai culture and arts.
Her Majesty the Queen traveled to St. Petersburg to see Russian architecture
and visited historical places related to Thai-Russian relations including
Peterhof Palace, the residence of King Rama V when he visited Russia in
During her visit to St. Petersburg, on July 9, the St. Petersburg State
University presented an Honorary Doctorate Degree in the field of Eastern
Languages and Cultures to Her Majesty the Queen.
It was at the presentation of the “Turtles Medalion” 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
Happy 75th Birthday Your Majesty from all of us here at Chiangmai Mail.
Local coffee grower a winner at International Cupping competition
When coffee aficionados from all over the world recently gathered at the
Specialty Coffee Association of America’s conference in Long Beach,
California, USA, who could have predicted that a fine coffee grown in Chiang
Mai province would be awarded the honor of Best in Asia, 2007?
30 cupping experts judged the competition at the Specialty Coffee
Association of America’s conference in Long Beach, California.
Nacha Coffee, the brand name of the Pongcharoenkul family’s estate grown
Arabica coffee and a newcomer to cupping competition, surprised everyone
when it surpassed 104 long-standing names from other parts of Asia,
including Java and Sumatra, and ranked alongside the standard-bearers from
other regions, Kona from Hawaii and Jamaican Blue Mountain. Over 30 cupping
experts judged the competition. The Specialty Coffee Association of America
is the trade association for the specialty coffee industry, sometimes called
“gourmet” or “premium” coffee. The association sets the industry’s standards
for growing, roasting and brewing fine coffee.
Preecha Pongcharoenkul returned home to Thailand after a year of study at
Harvard and completion of an MPA at the Kennedy School for Government, and
began to search for the perfect location for a future retirement home. He
didn’t know as he wandered around the mountain property that he had found
the perfect home for a coffee estate, a preserved evergreen rain forest.
Pheasant, peacocks, and rare long horn stag beetles make their home there
and live in harmony with the villagers. The land had been used to grow local
tea for hundreds of years, and the villagers protected it – and their
traditional miang tea – from fires. The miang needed neither chemical
pesticides nor fertilizers, so those residues were not in the soil. Shade
was abundant and the temperature cool. The first coffee beans were grown and
roasted and happily served almost as a hobby.
Then a prestigious guest, a true coffee expert, dined with the family at The
Fondue House, and his praise for the “hobby” coffee inspired Preecha to busy
himself into research and the coffee world and turn his hobby into a
competitive business. Today, sons Chanon and Chana share the presidency of
this growing company.
Nacha Coffee is shade grown at an altitude if 4,000 feet. Over a dozen
experienced farmers and their families nurture the plants, monitor the beans
until they are perfect for picking, pick and sort them, separate the beans
from the cherries. Then the beans are naturally sun-dried, sorted for size
and hand-graded. Roasting is critical to the process, and is accomplished in
small batches by a local expert. The company is committed to the villagers
who work with them to produce their fine coffee, providing homes, food and
schools for their children and improving the infrastructure on the mountain.
And they are giving back to the land, working closely with the Earthsafe
Foundation in Thailand to educate the villagers on better ecological
practices such as recycling the coffee byproducts as organic fertilizer.
Chanon and Chana of Nacha
The coffee beans are naturally
sun-dried and sorted for size and hand-graded.
Nacha Coffee is shade grown at
an altitude if 4,000 feet in Doi Saket.
A brief history about the origins of coffee
The story of how coffee growing and drinking spread
around the world is one of the greatest and most romantic in history. It
starts in the Horn of Africa, in Ethiopia, where the coffee tree probably
originated in the province of Kaffa. There are various fanciful but unlikely
stories surrounding the discovery of the properties of roasted coffee beans.
One story has it that an Ethiopian goatherd was amazed at the lively
behavior of his goats after chewing red coffee berries. What we know with
more certainty is that the succulent outer cherry flesh was eaten by slaves
taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia, through the great port
of its day, Mocha, now synonymous with coffee. Coffee was certainly being
cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century and probably much earlier than that.
Mocha was also the main port for the one sea route to Mecca, and was the
busiest place in the world at the time. But the Arabs had a strict policy
not to export any fertile beans, so that coffee could not be cultivated
anywhere else. The coffee bean is the seed of the coffee tree, but when
stripped of its outer layers it becomes infertile. The race to make off with
some live coffee trees or beans was eventually won by the Dutch in 1616, who
brought some back to Holland where they were grown in greenhouses.
Initially, the authorities in Yemen actively encouraged coffee drinking as
it was considered preferable to the extreme side effects of Kat, a shrub
whose buds and leaves were chewed as a stimulant. The first coffeehouses
were opened in Mecca and were called ‘kaveh kanes’. They quickly spread
throughout the Arab world and became successful places where chess was
played, gossip was exchanged, and singing, dancing and music were enjoyed.
They were luxuriously decorated and each had an individual character.
Nothing quite like the coffeehouse had existed before: a place where society
and business could be conducted in comfortable surroundings and where anyone
could go, for the price of coffee.
The Arabian coffeehouses soon became centers of political activity and were
suppressed. Coffee and coffeehouses were subsequently banned several times
over the next few decades, but they kept reappearing. Eventually a solution
was found when coffeehouses and coffee were taxed.
The Dutch were also growing coffee at Malabar in India, and in 1699 took
some to Batavia in Java, in what is now Indonesia. Within a few years the
Dutch colonies had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe. Today
Indonesia is the fourth largest exporter of coffee in the world.
Venetian traders first brought coffee to Europe in 1615. This was a period
when the two other great hot beverages also appeared in Europe. Hot
chocolate was the first, brought by the Spanish from the Americas to Spain
in 1528; and tea, which was first sold in Europe in 1610.
At first coffee was mainly sold by lemonade vendors and was believed to have
medicinal qualities. The first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in
1683, with the most famous, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opening in
1720. It is still open for business today.
The first reference to coffee being drunk in North America is from 1668 and,
soon after, coffee houses were established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston
and other towns. The Boston Tea Party Of 1773 was planned in a coffee house,
the Green Dragon. Both the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York
started in coffeehouses, in what is today the financial district known as
It was in the 1720s that coffee first came to be cultivated in the Americas.
A coffee tree was re-planted at Preebear, where it was surrounded by a thorn
hedge and watched over by slaves. It grew, and multiplied, and by 1726 the
first harvest was ready. It is recorded that by 1777, there were between 18
and 19 million coffee trees on Martinique, and the model for a new cash crop
that could be grown in the New World was in place.
But it was the Dutch who first started the spread of the coffee plant in
Central and South America, where today it reigns supreme as the main
continental cash crop. In 1730 the British introduced coffee to Jamaica,
where today the most famous and expensive coffee in the world is grown in
the Blue Mountains. By 1825 coffee was first planted in Hawaii which
produces the only US coffee, and one of the finest.
The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary greatly, depending on its
origin or the composition of the blend, the method of brewing and the
strength of the brew. Instant, or soluble, coffee generally contains less
caffeine than roast and ground coffee, but may be consumed in greater
volume. Robusta coffee has about twice as much caffeine as arabicas. A ‘cup’
is usually understood to contain 150 ml or 5 oz but an espresso may be as
small as 40 ml.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives the following ranges for
(milligrams per 5 oz cup) Roast and ground drip method averages about 115mg;
percolator, 80mg and instant coffee, 65mg. Courtesy of the International