Vol. VII No. 24 - Tuesday
June 10 - June 16, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


OUR COMMUNITY
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Volunteers to teach municipal officials and students at municipal schools

Last minute cast change for “The Gin Game”

Midnight University academics propose new constitution to end political strife

Kissmetta Synchronized Love raises 90,000 baht

“Sustainable Cities in Chiang Mai - a City in a Valley”

Musical storytelling evening aids Free Burma Rangers

Wine Tasting at the Chedi promotes new label

“Forest in Chiang Mai City Project”

Inthakhin Festival held at Wat Chedi Luang

Volunteers to teach municipal officials and students at municipal schools

Cross Culture Education Project to begin this week

The Mayor, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, (centre back row),
with volunteer teachers and municipal staff.

Last Thursday, June 5, Duenpen Chaladlam from the Chiang Mai Friends Group invited local foreign residents to an Orientation Day for volunteers interested in the teaching of English to the municipality and in 11 municipal schools.
Fifteen volunteers attended the briefing, joining a further seven who had previously registered but unfortunately were not able to attend. The prospective teachers included ex-professors and lecturers, ordinary teachers with TEFL qualifications, housewives, and even house husbands! Along with the eleven schools, 95 Municipal employees from all levels have expressed an interest in learning to communicate more efficiently in English. The school students being taught will be aged between 11 - 12 years old.
The Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, officially welcomed the group, and fully endorses the efforts of the Cross-Culture Education Project, hoping it will bring about a better understanding between all citizens and residents of Chiang Mai. She also hopes this will lead to better communication between municipal officials and foreign residents.
For those who had concerns about their visa status, it was explained that all volunteers would have special permission to teach at the Municipality and the schools, and that this would be endorsed by the Immigration Office of Chiang Mai.
Volunteers would be expected to teach for 2 hours per day, 1 day per week.
To those without experience of teaching in Thailand, Hugh Leong gave an interesting insight into the necessary skills, and emphasised that conversation skills, including pronunciation and the rhythm and emphasis of the English language, as well as its culture-related aspects, should be paramount.
Anyone wishing to volunteer with the group should contact Chiang Mai Friends Group at [email protected] gmail.com.

 

Last minute cast change for “The Gin Game”

Director of Gate Theatre to take on major role

That’s show business! After Ron Kasadin, who was to play Weller Martin in the Gate Theatre’s inaugural production of their 2008 season, fell off his motorbike last week, it soon became obvious that, sadly, he would have to step down. Which left only one option - the Gate Theatre’s director Stephan Turner, himself a seasoned actor as well as director had to step into the role with only 9 days to learn the part! A theatre person through and through, we’re sure he’ll do a great job!

The new cast at a rehearsal.
“The Gin Game” is an intense, spiritual stage drama written by famous American playwright D.L. Coburn and originally produced on Broadway, and is the story of a woman in her twilight years, Fonsia Dorsey, who enters a “home for the aged” and is for a while, saved from melancholy by the crusty charm of Weller Martin. The sardonic Weller cajoles Fonsia into playing a series of gin games on the home’s sunlit porch. As they seemingly become close companions, much is revealed about their respective regret-filled lives - to the steady shuffling and playing of cards. Their mutual need for solace is momentarily satisfied, until Weller’s pent-up rage and Fonsia’s subtle needling build to a terrible confrontation.
Described by critics as “a raw, emotional and vibrant stage play”, the two act, four scene, two character drama The Gin Game will be presented to audiences at the Kad Studio Theatre, Kad Suan Kaew, beginning Friday, June 13, with additional performances scheduled each successive Friday and Saturday with the exception of the weekend of July 4, when performances will be on Saturday and Sunday, July 5 and 6. The show will close on July 12. Doors open at 7:00 pm for each performance, with curtain at 7:30.
Suggested donation is 300 Baht.


Midnight University academics propose new constitution to end political strife

Saksit Meesubkwang
The Women’s Education Centre at Chiang Mai University was the venue for a meeting held on May 27 by the Midnight University, convened by the Dean of CMU’s Faculty of Law, Prof. Somchai Preechasilpakul. Representatives of 137 academics from across the country signed a statement stressing the need to draft a new constitution with the purpose of ending the political tension at present causing concern.
Discussions centred on the failure of the constitution drafted by the recent military government, (which, having overturned the previous 1997 constitution, had unsuccessfully attempted to create new rules), and the recent attempts by the present government to ratify certain of its clauses. Claims have been made that the attempted ratification would have only served to solve certain party political problems, and that the changes could well have caused more dissention amongst the general public, worsening an already unstable political situation.
A new constitution, drafted with the cooperation and involvement of all disparate groups and political parties in a similar manner to the 1997 constitution, should involve the setting up of a liberal draft council of representatives from varying groups with differing backgrounds in society, culture, sex, economic status and ethnic origins. The council must not contain representatives of high-ranking officials, businessmen and politicians. The draft itself should be open to the opinions and suggested improvements of society in general, and should facilitate the exchange of relevant data. On completion, the draft should be presented to the public at large, and a free and open referendum should take place without intervention by political parties.
The Midnight University called on all in Thai society to join with them in supporting the need for a new constitution, in order to encourage true democracy in the Kingdom and to ensure that further economic and social problems do not occur due to political strife.

Academics and their representatives at the Midnight University’s recent CMU meeting, led by the Dean of CMU’s Faculty of Law, Prof. Somchai Preechasilpakul.


Kissmetta Synchronized Love raises 90,000 baht

Fundraiser in aid of Freedom House School for street kids

On May 30, JJ Markets was the venue for an auction and music night held by Freedom House to raise funds for their school, which is committed to providing education and opportunities to street kids in Chiang Mai. Without the charity’s efforts, these children would have no choice but to follow their parents’ footsteps into extreme poverty and begging. The education provided by the Freedom House School gives them the chance to change their futures by learning not only Thai and English, but also music and art; most importantly they are encouraged to play, laugh and express themselves.
The event at JJ’s was entitled ‘Kissmetta’ and was organised by Lisa, the founder of Freedom House, and Ellen, with Pim Kemasingki and John Wright doing their usual great job as MCs. Much to the delight of the audience, the children themselves opened the evening with their own show, followed by Mr Bradley, who, in his much-loved and truly professional manner, entertained both the children and the older audience, together with Postman and the Chi Blues. The serious fundraising began when John Wright, doubling as auctioneer, encouraged even the most reticent to delve into their wallets and bid for paintings by well-known Thai artists including Kamin Lertchaiprasert, Rungsak Dokbua and Chumpol Taksapornchai. Over 200 guests joined in the fun, unaware of what to expect as it was Freedom House’s first event, all of whom were delighted at having raised over 90,000 baht for a truly deserving cause, and all of whom are eagerly awaiting the next event!


“Sustainable Cities in Chiang Mai - a City in a Valley”

Book launch at Café Pandau

On May 31, a book launch including a question and answer session and an organic buffet was held at Café Pandau on Nimmanhaeminda Road to celebrate the latest in Dr Duongchan Charoenmuang’s series of books on sustainable cities worldwide, entitled “Sustainable Cities in Chiang Mai; A Case of a City in a Valley”. Dr Duongchan is a research fellow at CMU’s Social Research Institute and also the Secretary General of the Urban Development Institute Foundation. Previous books in the series deal with cities in the West, Japan, Bali, and the Thai areas of Phitsanulok and Nan. All the books in the series are being translated into English, with the help of Dr Tanet Charoenmuang, Dr Duongchan’s husband, and Carole Beauclera, a local farang editor; the project is being funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Noriko, owner of Café Pandau, Carole Beauclera, author Dr Duongchan and her husband Dr Tanet Charoenmuang (l/r) at the Launch Party.
In her talk about her new book, Dr Duongchan explained that it deals mainly with the Wat Kat area, and covers a wide range of details including local beliefs, customs and religion, and their effects on the area. For example, the ancient “Law of Kud” prevented people from altering the direction of local waterways, including the Ping River. Later, however, this law was ignored, resulting in frequent flooding in the city. Whilst extensively covering a wide range of problems, the book also reaches conclusions and makes recommendations. A “must read” for residents of Chiang Mai, giving insights into the problems facing the city today, with links to historical facts, and questions about the future of the city we all call home.


Musical storytelling evening aids Free Burma Rangers

ArtSpace event raises over 10,000baht

On May 29, ArtSpace on 7 presented a night of musical storytelling in aid of the Free Burma Rangers, celebrating rich fables and truths of life and entitled “The Speed of Sound”.

The cast of ‘The Speed of Sound’ fundraiser for Free Burma Rangers

The evening began with Lindsay Stevenson strolling amongst the crowd, playing his guitar and involving everyone. Bradley Dean Whyte welcomed everyone with the programme for the evening and a very interesting take on The Arabian Nights, followed by a word from Nathan Collins of Free Burma Rangers. Nathan is a “local boy”; his family teach at Payap University and he grew up in Chiang Mai.
“Alchemy Pops” were enthusiastically welcomed, with Rebecca Zolkower singing “Beautiful” and “So far away”, both originally performed by Carole King. The night continued with songs from Antoine Garth, Matthew Whiston and Suwannee Eubank, and readings and spoken words from Chadwick Gray and James Austin Farrell. At the end of the evening, having raised over 10,000 baht, socialite Ramlah made this comment; “‘The Speed of Sound’ was a special and unusual evening enjoyed by an appreciative audience with a shared interest in artistic expression and a worthy cause. The blend of music, song and the spoken word was entertaining and inspirational, and a lovely ambiance prevailed throughout the performances. It was also nice to see the diverse mix of people attending, and the obvious interest in the commendable activities of ArtSpace, who deserve great credit for this effort. Very well done, and I am sure everybody will join me in wishing them future success.”
Free Burma Rangers is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement who bring help, hope and love to people in the war zones of Burma. Ethnic pro-democracy groups send teams to be trained, supplied and sent into the areas under attack to provide emergency assistance and human rights documentation. Together with other groups, the teams work to serve people in need.


Wine Tasting at the Chedi promotes new label

Glamorous evening, amazing food

Noi from the Wine Gallery, (3rd left), welcoming Chiang Mai Governor Viboon Sa-nguanphong, (3rd right, to the Mont Gras Wine Tasting event at the Chedi.

On Friday May 23, Wine Gallery hosted a wine tasting at the Chedi Hotel to introduce the Mont Gras label to Chiang Mai wine buffs. Guests included the Governor of Chiang Mai Viboon Sa-nguanphong, Shannon Morrow, (wife of the US Consul General), and most of the GM’s from the other major hotels. All guests were asked to dress up in their most colourful outfits - no black or white was allowed - and almost everyone obliged. It was good to see such participation and it gave the evening an extra dimension. Juan Pablo Quijada, export manager of the Mont Gras label was on hand, together with Khun Noi of Wine Gallery, to give expert advice to the attendant ‘Hi-So’ crowd.
The new Executive Chef, Blair Mathieson, showed off his skills in the kitchen with canapés such as freshly shucked oysters Fine de Claire with lime, mirin, and salmon caviar, Red Snapper Chermoula baked with couscous, lemon, mint and yogurt and Lamb Shoulder, slow cooked,in white wine with tomatoes, black olives and basil. The quantity and quality of the food encouraged many of the guests to forget about their calorie intake!
DJ Mee provided the sounds; his selection of music was perfect for the occasion, and the elegant outdoor location together with the cool evening temperature created the ideal setting for this delightful evening.


“Forest in Chiang Mai City Project”

Action as well as talk!

The moderator (left) with Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai,
Dr Chao Duangduan na Chiengmai, Ajarn Suksopha and Dr Rangsarit (l/r).

On June 2, Dr Chao Duangduan na Chiengmai opened a project to plant locally grown trees in a 5 rai plot of land behind the intersection of Huay Kaew Road and the Canal Irrigation Road. The area is known locally as ‘Tatroot’ and belongs to the Thai Ruk Pha Foundation, the Thai Conservation of Forest Foundation.
Approximately 80 people, mainly from the younger generation, (which at least gives us all hope for the future!), listened to Dr Chao Duangduan na Chiengmai deliver a passionate speech emphasising that the city of Chiang Mai needs trees to survive. The Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, who has consistently campaigned for the environment since taking office, also spoke about sustainable living and announced that a review of the street tree situation is being undertaken by city authorities after last year’s expensive disaster concerning the over-planting of trees imported from areas far south of CM.
At the end of the proceedings, many trees were planted, with Dr Chao Duangduan na Chiengmai leading the way by planting the fragrant-flowered “Don Payom”. Many examples of this lovely tree used to grace the Don Payom market area in Suthep Rd before they were destroyed by city workers during road widening.


Inthakhin Festival held at Wat Chedi Luang

Thousands pay homage to the Pillar of the City

Citizens of Chiang Mai making offerings of flowers, candles
and incense to the Buddha of 100,000 Rains at the annual Inthakhin,
 (Pillar of the City), Festival at Wat Chedi Luang.

Last week, from May 31 to June 7, one of the most significant religious celebrations in Chiang Mai took place at Wat Chedi Luang in the old city - the Inthakhin Festival. This ancient rite, initiated in the north of Thailand over a thousand years ago on the arrival from south-west China of the ancestors of the present-day Thai peoples, is held to honour the Pillar of the City, (Sa-Deu Muang - the “navel of the city”, marked by the pillar itself), which is situated in a large spirit house just inside the front gate leading to the Wat. Many believe that the Pillar itself is home to a spirit who protects the city and its inhabitants. Visitors may view the Pillar only on the days of the festival; during that time men may enter the spirit house to pay homage, but women must view from outside.
The Inthakhin, (a term from the ancient Pali language) Festival originated in ancient times as an annual fertility rite, held traditionally at the beginning of the rainy season, and, in present-day Chiang Mai, involves the sprinkling of water on the magical image known as the “Buddha of 100,000 rains”, thus ensuring abundant rainfall and a successful rice crop and invoking peace, happiness and prosperity for the city and its residents. The Buddha image itself is paraded throughout the city on the first day of the festival, after which it is placed in front of the Viharn to allow inhabitants to make offerings of candles and flowers. The festival has been held at Wat Chedi Luang, the exact centre of the city of Chiang Mai, ever since the temple was erected shortly after the founding of the city itself in 1296 AD, the same year in which the first City Pillar was erected, just outside what is now the boundary wall of the Wat.
Every year, many thousands of farmers, tradesmen and people from all walks of life travel from all over the north to join with the residents of Chiang Mai in participating in the ancient ceremonies, making merit, and paying homage to the City Pillar and to the spirits of the rain. Crowds throng the grounds of the Wat, spilling over into the nearby streets. Many groups from outside the city parade through the streets carrying offerings, having entered Chiang Mai through Thapae Gate, the traditional gate for entry from the east. The concept of the City Pillar is an integral part of northern Thai culture, and the animism involved in propitiating the spirit of the rain is still very much alive.



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