Thailand celebrates Coronation Day and Their Majesties’ fifty-eighth Wedding Anniversary
(Photo courtesy of the Bureau
of the Royal Household.)
His Majesty met the future Queen in Paris in 1947, an
extremely beautiful teen-aged girl. The daughter of the Thai Ambassador in
London, she was in Paris to study French and classical music. M.R. Sirikit
could not have been more aptly named - Sirikit meaning beauty and honour.
The 20 year old King to be was enraptured by Sirikit whom he plied with
music and poetry, composing a waltz in her honor entitled “I Dream of You”.
The lyrics for that blues number which Bhumibol dedicated to his future
bride, “In the kingdom of my dreams, you are my queen... Please make my
dreams come true,” were soon to be real. The couple were married in Bangkok
on 28 April 1950. At the auspicious time of 10:24, chosen by the Buddhist
astrologers, the 22 year old King of Thailand married the love of his life,
M.R. Sirikit Kitiyakara.
Not even a King, however, can escape bureaucracy and, after paying the 10
baht marriage fee, the young couple received a traditional blessing from his
grandmother, Sawang Vadhana, who anointed them and sprinkled them with holy
water which had been blessed daily by four Buddhist monks for more than 160
The young newlyweds, like any other just-married couple, ‘escaped’ to the
privacy of their honeymoon hideaway - in their case the Klai Kangwol (Far
from Worry) Palace on the Western Gulf, hardly pausing to examine their
wedding gifts from many of the world’s leaders.
A week later, on the fifth of May 1950, Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej was
crowned King, the Ninth Rama of the Chakri Dynasty.
The festivities began with a ceremonial bath after which Bhumibol, dressed
in the white robes of a Brahmin monk, received sacred water over his
shoulders, as the court astrologer struck the gong of victory.
The King, changed into full coronation attire, then received eight
representatives who offered sacred water drawn from 18 major Chedis around
the kingdom, divided into eight pitchers, with holy water from Bangkok
making the ninth, after which a Brahmin priest presented a nine-tiered
umbrella as the first symbol of sovereignty.
Then the five symbolic items of Kakutthaphan, the Royal Regalia, were
presented. These were the Golden Crown, the Royal Ancestral Sword, the Whisk
of the Tail Hairs of a White Elephant, a Small Flat Fan and the Golden
The Golden Crown, encrusted with precious jewels, had been worn by each of
the new King’s predecessors - the eight Kings of the Chakri Dynasty - at
their own coronations. In accordance with tradition, the King placed the
Crown upon his own head after which he took possession of the other
traditional symbols of Kingship and placed the Golden Ring of Kingship upon
The King, seated on the Bhatarabit Throne at the Grand Palace, pronounced
the Oath of Accession that “We will reign with Righteousness, for the
Benefit and Happiness of the Siamese People”. At the same time, he poured
ceremonial water to symbolize the dedication of his whole being to rule over
the Thai Nation, in accordance with the Tenfold Moral Principles of the
Sovereign, namely: alms-giving and charity, strict moral standards,
self-sacrifice, honesty and integrity, courtesy and kindness, austerity in
habits, harboring no anger or hatred, practicing and promoting non-violence,
exuding patience, forbearance and tolerance, and displaying impartiality to
The idealistic monarch would also be imbued with four other ideals: a
knowledge of food production, an insight into the ways of people, a penchant
for winning the hearts of his subjects and, a soft-spoken approach.
Towards the end of the splendid coronation ceremonies, the young King
elevated his new bride Sirikit to become Queen Somdej Phranang Chao. Then, a
procession to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where the Supreme Patriarch
read the five Buddhist commandments and His Majesty, dressed in the regalia
of the first Monarch of the House of Chakri, made his solemn vow to protect
The King’s Coronation Oath uttered on 5 May 1950 that, “We will reign with
righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people,” has
resounded continually through his six decades of Kingship.
The King took much comfort and direction from the word righteousness,
looking back into scriptures to the age-old Buddhist concept of Kingship,
emanating from the Sutta Pitaka of the Tripitaka which outlines the genesis
of the universe and the progression of the evils which befell mankind:
greed, stealing and lying, with the inevitable rebound of censure and
A King was defined as Mahasammata or, a King of Righteousness, approved by
all the people. He was also called Ksatriya or Lord of the Land.
HRH Prince Rangsit of Jainad, who was Prince Regent for King Bhumibol,
organized the incredible coronation ceremony, the likes of which, according
to some of the chroniclers of the time, may never be seen again.
The Prince was greatly relieved that every meticulous detail in the minutia
of organizing such an historical extravaganza came out correctly. He was
doubly happy because, for many years prior to the coronation, he had been
haunted by a prediction made by a soothsayer in 1932 at the 150th
anniversary of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty, that the then King
Prajadhipok (Rama VII) would be the last King of Siam. The coronation of
Rama IX laid this very disturbing prophesy to rest.
Bomb discovered inside
parcel left on temple steps
City centre roads closed, major traffic jams
A member of the bomb disposal team with
the suspect parcel which contained the bomb.
Last Friday, at 7.30 am, police at Muang Chiang Mai Station were informed by
the owner of the Ronrungsap clothes shop in Wararot market that he had found
a parcel which he suspected might be an explosive device on the steps
leading to Wat Saenfang temple, close to the market.
home-made bomb which was in the parcel, made using a coffee container.
Nathee Ananpanyasuth, 46, had just parked his car in Soi Kad Laojo, which
leads into the market area when he noticed the parcel. Fearing for the
safely of his car should it be a bomb, he placed it in a nearby rubbish bin.
Having done this, he then called the police, who arrived having already
alerted bomb disposal experts from the 33rd Border Patrol based in Tambon
The bomb disposal unit removed the parcel from the rubbish bin using a
robot. On opening it, they discovered the bomb inside, which was immediately
removed to the open area at Thapae Gate, and exploded safely using a
high-pressure water gun. Police stated that the radius of the explosion was
approximately 30 metres. During the operation, roads in the city centre had
been closed, causing traffic jams for more than two hours.
The Commander of Chiang Mai Provincial Police, Major Gen. Banthop
Sukhonthaman, has ordered a full investigation into the origin of the
device. As yet, no organisation has claimed responsibility.
International UNAIDS conference attracts controversy and protest
Concern about “war on drugs” effect on AIDS/HIV patients
UNAIDS Executive Director Dr.
Peter Piot, centre,accompanied
by Dr. Mark Dybul, left, the US Ambassador for the Office of the US Global
Aids Coordinator, in discussion with the protestors.
Last week, Chiang Mai’s Holiday Inn hotel hosted the 22nd meeting of
the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. The annual meeting, held
concurrently in Chiang Mai and New York, focuses on policies regarding both
the management of the disease itself and of the drugs available for its
treatment, and was attended by 350 international delegates.
Also in attendance outside the hotel were human rights protestors, AIDS/HIV
sufferers and disease treatment groups, who had staged a rally out of
concern that the Thai government’s “War on Drugs”, ongoing at present, would
have a disastrous effect on outreach medical workers’ efforts to treat drug
users with AIDS/HIV and to control the disease. The 200 activists’ concerns
were based on experiences during ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s previous war on
drugs, on which the present initiative has been reported to be based. Karyn
Kaplan, director of policy and development for the Thai AIDS Treatment
Action Group, stated that, “the 2003 war on drugs is notorious for the
crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Thai authorities”. During the
campaign, almost 3000 people were killed, many of whom were from minority
groups and almost half of whom had no connection with drugs, according to a
press statement released last Tuesday by the groups. Also mentioned was
blacklisting of suspected drug uses and dealers, forced drug “treatment” in
military style facilities and extra-judicial killing. At the time, AIDS/HIV
patients had been driven underground in fear of their lives, losing their
access to support and necessary medications. As a result, the fight against
the spread of AIDS in Thailand had been seriously undermined. The groups are
asking the Thai government to reconsider its controversial campaign.
Another concern, particularly in Chiang Mai, was that HIV-positive men who
have developed resistance to first-line drugs were finding it difficult to
obtain the generic version of the second-line drug, Kaletra, in spite of a
2007 government policy decision to allow its importation into Thailand. At
present, about 100,000 HIV-positive patients in Thailand depend on drugs for
their survival, with 14,000 new cases every year. 12% of patients are now
resistant to first-line drugs, and a large proportion of the new cases are
women who have been infected by their husbands during unprotected sex. A
compulsory licensing policy for Kaletra is in place, but the majority of
patients listed under the universal healthcare scheme have not yet received
it. The issue will be discussed by the NHSO sub-panel on May 6.
The chairman of the Upper Northern Thailand Network of AIDS/HIV sufferers,
Anant Muangboonchai, the coordinator of the AIDS/HIV Network of Thailand,
Praisarn Suwannawong, together with some 100 HIV-positive members of the
networks, proposed a letter calling on the UNAIDS committee to encourage the
recognition of the human rights of AIDS/HIV patients and drug users. The
letter requests that the law on human rights be upheld during the war on
drugs, that a government policy be formulated to deal correctly with the
issues, that community development projects be set up to emphasise medical
care, and that a working group be set up to study drug use and the
development of support systems within the health service. Representatives of
the UN committee received the letter from Anant, and gave assurances that
its demands would passed on to a higher level for consideration.
“No Alcohol” campaign during Songkran hits problems
Alcoholism in Thailand ranks 5th highest in world
The “Enjoyment, Safety, No Alcohol” campaign which ran during the recent
Songkran festival in Chiang Mai had some difficulty getting its message
across to a large proportion of the revellers, according to the manager of
the campaign, Teera Watcharapranee. He reported that, although some success
had been achieved, a significant obstruction had been caused by the
perception in Thai society that a good time could not be had without
drinking alcohol. The average drinker consumes approximately 13.59 litres of
pure alcohol per year, the equivalent of 220 litres of, say, Chang beer.
This trend results in a high level of road accidents, more than 50% of which
are caused by drink-driving. Statistics from the years 2005-2007, according
to the Global Road Safety Partnership, put the overall cost of these
accidents as averaging 2.8% of Thailand’s gross domestic product, and 60%
more than the total government expenditure on health. Road deaths per annum
during that period are recorded as being at least 12,000, but, because of
possible under-reportage, may have been as high as 20,000. A high percentage
of these deaths inevitably occur during Songkran, the January New Year, and
other major festivals. The recently introduced Alcoholic Beverage Control
Law was intended to at least reduce the number of deaths and injuries during
Local authorities had been hoping that, during this month’s Songkran
festival, the “Enjoyment, Safety, No Alcohol” campaign might have improved
the situation, however, in spite of their efforts, the number of deaths and
injuries remained high. “No Alcohol” areas had been established and
publicised, no extra licences to sell alcohol during the festival had been
issued, licensed premises had their opening times reduced to between 11 am -
2 pm and 5 pm - 12 pm, and the distributing and selling of alcohol on the
sidewalk or to those under 20 years of age had been forbidden. The
consumption of alcohol on temple premises and in schools was also forbidden.
However, Teera stated that for the new policy and law to stimulate a real
change in behaviour, the cooperation of all parties is required, and that
the majority of people need to feel safer than at present in order to enjoy
the festivities to the full. At the time of last year’s Songkran
festivities, a similar campaign was instituted in two areas; Chiang Mai and
Khon Kaen. Although statistics showed that a greater number of people
enjoyed the festival than in the previous year, instances of inappropriate
and unpleasant behaviour due to excess consumption of alcohol in Chiang Mai,
although slightly reduced from 2006, still remained at an unacceptable
level. Complete statistics are not yet available for this month’s festival,
but will provide a basis for a policy proposal for the future which will be
put to the Governor of Chiang Mai and the local administration.
Songkran road deaths
in Chiang Mai total 14
Whole of Thailand totals up from last year
Total road deaths and injuries for the whole of Thailand during the
Songkran festival are higher than in the previous year, and deaths in Chiang
Mai are the second highest in the country.
A meeting held on April 15, chaired by the Governor of Chiang Mai, Wibun
Sa-nguanphong, discussed and summarised the position at that point. The
Governor stated that, in spite of strict precautions, people still seemed
careless of their lives, particularly when they had been drinking. He
encouraged all units to work hard to make drivers understand that they
should cooperate with the new regulations in order to avoid accidents. A
summary of accidents on April 14 showed 93, with 111 injuries and 8 deaths,
a high proportion of which were due to drink-driving and involved
Visitor numbers in Chiang Mai over the period of the festival were high,
with the resulting higher number of vehicles on the road. Many people were
drinking to excess, with most of the accidents occurring between 4 pm and 12
pm each day. Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Centre officials reported
that they were strictly controlling the distribution of alcohol to under-age
drinkers, and were concentrating on riders of motorbikes. Inappropriate and
wrongful behaviour, in particular drink-driving and not wearing seatbelts
and helmets, was being encountered on a regular basis.
The municipality had informed residents in good time regarding their
cooperation with the new rules regarding the consumption of alcohol during
the festival, however, in the town itself, such cooperation only began to be
received after police officers explained the new laws to possible offenders.
Outside town, police received less cooperation. It will be necessary to
convince both local residents and tourists that it is possible to enjoy the
festivities without getting drunk and risking lives in order to ensure their
cooperation in future.
Mugger assaults and
robs two female tourists
A mugger who attacked and robbed two young Scots girls on April
15 seems to have disappeared without trace. The two 18 year-old tourists
told police that they were walking along the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road
near Goodwill Guesthouse at 5:45 am when they were approached by a man
wearing dark glasses and a hat who began talking to them. As it was
still dark and they were alone on the street, they walked away quickly,
but the man followed them, assaulted them and snatched their handbags
containing money, a bank cash card, passports and a digital camera
before running away. Police were called, and attended the two girls at
the nearby Rajavej Chiang Mai Hospital, where they were having their
wounds cleaned. Investigating officers have compiled evidence and have
made a forensic sketch of the mugger from a description given by his
victims in order to help identify him. They have also stressed that the
actions of the man will harm the image of Chiang Mai as a safe place to
Chronically ill prisoner dies from heat
Autopsy showed no injuries
A prisoner at Chiang Mai Central Prison, Chamnan Sirinant, 48,
died from heat stroke on April 15. According to fellow prisoners,
Chamnan went to bed as usual, but was found dead the following morning.
An autopsy carried out at Maharaj Hospital revealed no injuries, and
determined the cause of death to be an already existent chronic illness
combined with the excessive heat. The prisoners’ family have taken his
body for burial with the appropriate religious rites.
Raw opium found in Chiang Rai hut
After receiving a report that drugs were due to be delivered to
Chiang Rai customers during the Songkran festival, local police officers
and field army personnel were directed to patrol roads in the area in
order to intercept any attempts at delivery.
As they were approaching a hut in Moo10, Toeng, a man was seen to come
out and immediately run away when he saw the officers. A bag containing
115 grams of raw opium was discovered inside the hut, and confiscated as
evidence. An official from the Toeng police station confirmed that Hill
tribespeople often deliver opium to customers in this manner. The
investigation is continuing with the hope that an arrest will be made in
the near future.
Worst storm in 50 years
hits villages in Mae Hong Son
Severe hailstorm in Phrae, more expected
Severe hailstorms hit Ban Huay Pha and areas of Tham Pla Cave
National Park at midnight on April 22, causing serious damage. In the
village itself all 34 houses were affected, with several destroyed by
falling trees. Stocks of garlic in storage, and two houses belonging to
the headman of Tambon Huay Pha, were badly damaged, together with
teachers’ houses in the Ban Huay Pha school compound and houses in the
National Park, a major tourist attraction in the area, where 50 large
trees were uprooted. The main highway, 1095, from Mae Hong Son to
Pangmapha district, became blocked with fallen trees and landslides, and
many other roads were also affected. Electricity cables were destroyed,
resulting in blackouts in the area which lasted for over 6 hours.
villager in Mae Hong Son, after the worst summer storm in 50 years,
removing a fallen tree which had damaged his house and caused injuries.
Workers from the Provincial Electricity Authority and members of the
Highway District units were immediately dispatched to clear the roads
and restore the electricity supplies to the area. Teams from the Mae
Hong Son Provincial Public Relief and Disaster Prevention Office were
sent out to inspect the damage and provide assistance to victims of the
storm. Villagers and residents in the affected areas later told
reporters that the storm was the worst they had experienced for 50
In Phrae district a week earlier, local people and visitors were
celebrating Songkran when a sudden severe hailstorm hit, lasting for an
hour, and carrying off roofs, signs and trees. A few revellers sustained
slight injuries, and at least 310 houses across an area of 15 villages
sustained damage, some serious. A fine example of a traditional teak
house was totally destroyed, together with an entire warehouse of corn,
and a school was badly affected, with 20 computers damaged.
The deputy governor of Phrae, Somchai Hataytnti, reported that urgent
assistance would need to be provided to those who had been left
homeless. Soldiers from a local regiment were immediately called in,
together with prisoners from Phrae prison, to repair damaged roofs. The
hailstorm was the second such within a month, and residents have been
warned to stay on their guard as more storms are expected.
Home owner finds house ransacked, valuables stolen
Nearby restaurant owner states burglaries are rife
The owner of a home in Moo Baan Krisada House, Phrae, recently
received an unpleasant shock when he returned from a family visit to
find that the house had been ransacked and many items had been stolen.
On April 14, Niwat Pongsaeng, a radio operator at Long police station,
Phrae, and his wife Malee, a local teacher, had been to visit Malee’s
mother in another district, and had stayed overnight. On their return
they found the door had been forced open, and all the lights in the
house left on. The two bedrooms had been ransacked and many valuable
items had been stolen, including a laptop, Malee’s cosmetics, and a
collection of Buddhist amulets from famous temples in Phrae and other
provinces. When asked, neighbours told Niwat that they had noticed
nothing abnormal the previous night.
Police and a forensic team at the scene estimate that the burglary took
place in the early hours of April 15. The owner of a restaurant at the
entrance to the Moo Baan told reporters that burglaries happened
frequently in the area. She is forced to bring in chairs and tables each
night at closing time, as they have been stolen many times, as are soft
drinks and even ice. On the night of the burglary, 20 bottles of soft
drinks had been taken.
Payap to host Chiang Mai’s
first ever BarCamp
New international network of user-generated conferences
Chiang Mai will host its first ever BarCamp on May 17 at Payap
University’s International House. BarCamp is an international network of
user-generated conferences - open, participatory workshop events, whose
content is entirely provided by participants. Often, the focus is on
early-stage web applications and related open-source technologies. The
first BarCamp in Thailand was held on Bangkok on January 26. 150
participants and important sponsors such as Microsoft, Google and
Reuters made it a huge success. Since 2005, BarCamps have been held in
over 31 cities throughout the world, in North America, South America,
Africa, Australasia and Asia.
Whilst being loosely structured, attendees are encouraged to present or
facilitate a session, and share information and experiences of the event
, both live and afterwards, via public web channels including blogging,
photo-sharing, social bookmarking, wiki-ing and IRC. BarCamp is being
held on May 17 from 10 am to 6 pm, at Payap University’s International
House on the Superhighway/ Chiang Mai Lampang Road.
Further information and registration is available in Thai and English at