Vol. VII No. 28 - Tuesday
July 8 - July 14, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Voice Studio Choir Rocks Chiang Mai!

SKÅL Chiang Mai at the Legend Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai

British Ambassador to Thailand visits Chiang Mai

A Tribute to the late Roxanna M. Brown

 

Chiang Mai Voice Studio Choir Rocks Chiang Mai!

Magical evening headed for international competition

The Guys and Gals from the Chiang Mai Voice Choir. The Chiang Mai Mail Team takes this opportunity to wish them well in Graz, Austria at the World Choir Games.

Mark Hefner
On Saturday June 28, the Kad Theatre at Kad Suan Kaew was the venue for one of the most spectacular musical productions Chiang Mai has ever seen, entitled “A Tour Concert for World Choir Games”. Given by the Chiang Mai Voice Studio Choir, directed by Tianchai Sooktiang, together with the Chiang Mai Youth Symphony Orchestra, the already stellar line-up was further enhanced by students of the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy and performers from “The Dance Zone” and “Love to Dance”.
The Kad Theatre opened its doors around 7 p.m. for the audience to walk in from the shopping mall below. Fine carpeted floors and wood paneled walls surrounded patrons as they strolled up the stairs; the interior of the concert hall greeted them with light colored wood walls from floor to ceiling on each side of the stage, covered with Thai wood carving designs. The fine wood design was prevalent throughout the concert hall, with a spectacular design on the ceiling. It’s an amazingly modern music theatre with a Thai touch. Combined with the quality of the performers on hand and the great atmosphere, the stage was set for a magical evening. Performances such as this are normally associated with western culture but this night showed the incredible talent and diversity of Thai performers. To top it off, they are all from Chiang Mai!
As the lights dimmed, a short movie introduced the choir, their style of music and the CMVS’ desire to bring the gold medal home from Graz, Austria in July.
Anjan Tianchai had a few tricks up his sleeve to keep the audience on the edge of their seats with excitement. The balance of harmony from the choir delighted the audience with a style of singing normally seen in western countries. This masterful mix of Thai and Western songs, arranged by Aj. Tianchai, showed off the incredible talent of these Chiang Mai singers. In between CMVS performances, the show also brought together some of the finest dancers in Thailand, who performed their hottest dance routines, and injected the concert with a boost of energy not normally seen in most typical Thai concerts. From traditional ballet to hard pounding foot stomping high energy dance routines, the dancers’ expertise and talent amazed the audience.
The 23-strong choir and the dancers performed alternately, raising the pitch of excitement more each time with costume changes, the most radical of which was at the finale, when the entire choir reappeared dressed as a biker gang! Black jeans covered in silver studs, high black leather boots, collars, black lipstick and a lot of attitude exploded across the footlights when the stage lights flashed on for the finale of a medley of rock tunes including “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”. A stunning end to a great show.
The World Choir Games, held this year in Graz, from July 9-19, is the destination for this exceptional Chiang Mai choir. 20,000 singers in 400 choirs from 80 nations will gather there for the largest singing competition in the world. The choir will compete in two categories, Pop and Jazz, and are representing Thailand itself. The cost of the trip is high, with 25 people traveling and staying in Graz for the duration of the competition - a total amount in the region of 3,000,000 baht. Presently, not enough money has been raised to cover costs; the singers are forced to use their own funds to represent their country and hopefully bring back the gold medal. CMVS needs your help, and needs it fast! Donations, (which can be sent to Chiang Mai Voice Studio), and sponsorship packages will be rewarded by the choir’s making themselves available to sing at events held by sponsors and contributors. Further details can be obtained by calling Ajarn Tianchai on 081 993 7031; donations can be sent to Kasikorn Bank, Chang Puak Branch, a/c name Tianchai Sooktiqng, a/c number 375-2-17260, swift code KASI TH BK. Donations will still be accepted after the competition, and will be used to reimburse expenses already paid. If you love Thailand and you love music then this is a great opportunity to show your support. Get involved and call today!

 

SKÅL Chiang Mai at the Legend Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai

A wonderful weekend!

The 1969 Rolls Royce Corniche which was brought along
by Pongrit Sudhamwong amongst its many jealous admirers.

Convened, for last month’s meeting, at The Legend Boutique River Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai, Skål Club was joined by members of the Lanna Classic Car Club and guests of both clubs. Skål member Marc Dumur, (GM at the Legend), and likewise Skål member David Hardcastle - with a foot in each camp - had their VW Beetle, (Marc’s), and Alfa Romeo GTV, (David’s), on display. An Alfa Romeo Julia and a BMW was also on show but pride of place had to go to the 1969 Rolls Royce Corniche which has been kindly brought along by Pongrit Sudhamwong. Although not officially on display, (it was too young!), another eye catcher was the gleaming, black Porsche in which Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz arrived. All this classiness was assembled in the forecourt of the Legend where hotel staff served drinks and pre-dinner snacks to the multitude - there were around 45 persons present, which was great. Hoping that a bit of the classiness might rub off on this writer; I asked Skåleague David Hardcastle where I might park my Mazda. He suggested “As far away as possible” - now how’s that for Skål friendship?? Nice one, David!
With everyone seated in the dining hall - looking very jolly with Skål flags and pennants - MC Ken presented apologies from our Madame President, Khun Anchalee, who was unable to attend this meeting. Ken was thrilled and delighted to announce that the reason for Madame President’s absence was her recent discovery that she will be having a baby next January. This announcement was made to applause from the gathering so CONGRATULATIONS, Khun Anchalee, from all of us at Skål Club Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand. We know that “Friendship” is part of the Skål Toast - but isn’t that taking it a bit too far?
Following that announcement, Skåleague David Hardcastle gave a most entertaining, and interesting, audio-visual presentation on “The Mystique and Magic of Rolls Royce”. Did you know that the arrival of Rolls Royce was predicted by that ancient sooth-sayer Nostradamus? Or that a Rolls Royce car never breaks down? Ask David about all things Rolls!
A fine BBQ spread was then offered to the diners and, happily, wine flowed plentifully so that all of those tongues and automobile gears were well lubricated. It was wonderful to see so many of our “northern” Skåleagues and friends at this dinner - people like Duncan & Wanida Jamieson, (Diethelm), Rebecca Sittiwong and Nuya Leewanich of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, Jaffee Yee from photoARTasia, Chawalit Sudhamwong and Pattana Sittisombat of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce - and, of course, those good folks who had traveled north from Chiang Mai like Sally Ward and Reinhard Hohler who flew the “hop” with SGA Airlines -thanks to SGA for their generous discounts. Others who had traveled north from Chiang Mai included regular guests Lawrence Goldberg and Jarin Inta while others - Bob Lawler, Klaus Schmidt and Bruce Beresford - took the opportunity to travel even further north and take in a bit of duty-free shopping at Tachilek.
Towards the end of dinner, as people chatted and sipped, the lights gently dimmed and Marc Dumur announced his “SURPRISE” for the evening - a talented group of Hill Tribe teenagers who gave a Magic Show. Their leader, Saek Lacheku, explained they were not as good as David Copperfield - but almost! It surely was a lot of mysterious fun and illusion as banknotes disappeared - they also returned - snakes entered a model house, police chains were unable to restrain an innocent Hill Tribe boy and a delightful Hill Tribe girl had her head chopped off! Wonderful! Our appreciation and thanks to these young Hill Tribe Magicians and to Insii Thaihouse and the Rotary Club of Maechan who sponsor them.
Of course, at the end of every Skål Club dinner meeting we try to get a photographic record of everyone who was there i.e. a group photo! Our regular photographer, Phinyo, was not at this meeting - but one of the young ladies from the Legend stood in and I think she did a splendid job. So, if you were with us at the Legend, Chiang Rai you are sure to spot yourself, and if you weren’t with us at this Skål International Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand “away” weekend, then you surely missed out on something very special. The Legend Boutique River Resort & Spa is a delightful, compact venue, on the banks of Maenam Kok, and GM Marc plus his Staff made sure everyone was welcome and comfortable. Thank you to all the good folks at the Legend.
Sunday morning saw this writer heading back to Chiang Mai, at a gentle pace, with en route stops at Charin Restaurant for their most delicious lemon meringue pies, and at the King Naresuan Memorial - we do have a lot to see and show in our northern Kingdom of Lanna Thai. However, several members and guests - led by Marc Dumur and Hon. Sec. Mohamad - headed off to do a vineyard inspection and wine tasting. So, our Skåleague and Wine Master Mohamad has added a few words about the vintages of Chiang Rai.
“Eleven of us booked for a visit to the Mae Chan winery an hour away from Chiang Rai in the direction of Doi Mae Salong. The winery is located on a splendid 1,300 rai piece of land. Having been ferried across Lake Maepern, at the landing an open bus like the ones you find at Universal studios transported us to the main reception hall where we were received with refreshing drinks and a panoramic view of the roaring majestic hills all around.
A guide took us first to visit a precious stone cutting workshop, which we were told is the main business of the owner of the winery as he sells his gems through distribution outlets in Bangkok. Then we went to sample the different type of Oolong tea which is grown on these hills and processed in a section of the winery. Some, we were told, are for reducing cholesterol, others for energy boosting, etc. Knowing that I will be stopping on the way back at Charin’s and trying more than one of the delicious pies he serves, I opted to buy a bag of the cholesterol reducing red tea for a third of what it would cost in Bangkok - a great deal, I thought, if it could help me manage a third pie!
Our final stop was at the winery. Our guide explained the process and we visited the different areas and rooms where the Shiraz grapes are pressed - unfortunately not by ladies’ feet, but by machinery, causing me to reflect that modernity is not always advantageous. We were shown the stainless steel fermentation casks and how the wine is finally stored in French Oak barrels for a year before being bottled. Klaus tried to negotiate - secretly- buying one of the old used oak barrels and I was happy to know that his offer was rejected. I wondered if he thought of dropping some of the passengers who came along in the van to carry his barrel back to Chiang Mai instead!
Three grades of the red wines sold under the label of Napa Mieng were offered to us for sampling. I have to say that this is a young winery; only six years in operation and production. A French viticulturist visits every year and helps in the refinement of the process, which has started to show good results. The top range is sold under the name of Chateau D’Maechan Shiraz premium, and their 2004 vintage has recently been awarded the silver prize from the Wine Style Asia Award in 2006. It is a balanced wine with a very pleasant bouquet and a light body - a nice wine to drink if you can afford the 1,200 baht price tag.
Before we left the winery, we were taken on a tour to see the different types of rooms and suites at offer inside the winery grounds at the Doi Hom Fha resort. I have to admit that the view from the rooms is spectacular but I would not recommend staying there to anyone with a handicap disability as the only access to the rooms is by a steep outdoor stairs with no cover. Just after mid-day we were all ferried back to our cars ending what I must describe as a lovely and most enjoyable half day tour which I would recommend to any person visiting Chiang Rai province”.
Finally from me, when I participate in Skål Club Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand, and travel around our beautiful northern countryside, I am always reminded of Tina Turner’s song about “Simply the Best - Better than All the Rest”. Don’t you agree?

The performers in the Hill Tribe Magic Show receiving
well-deserved appreciation and applause.

Members of Skål International Chiang Mai and Lanna Classic Car Club with their guests at the Legend Boutique River Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai.


British Ambassador to Thailand visits Chiang Mai

Topics included Burma, politics and business opportunities

The Ambassador meets one of his football heroes, West Brom legend Graham Lovett pictured here with Ja, (left), and Elizabeth Lovett, (right).

Chiang Mai University students gathered at the Faculty of Humanities
to hear the British Ambassador’s speech.

The British Ambassador, Quinton Quayle, (2nd right), during his meeting with
the Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, (3rd right).

 

CMM Reporters
The recent visit to Chiang Mai of the British Ambassador to Thailand, Quinton Quayle, must have stirred some fond memories, as, 29 years ago, he had, as a junior diplomat, studied at Chiang Mai University. On this occasion, however, he was addressing over 500 students at his former university’s Faculty of Humanities, as the guest of the Dean of the faculty, Ajarn Rome Chiranukrom. The subject of his address was the political situation in Asia.

The British Ambassador meets with Associate Professor Rome Chiranukrom, Dean of CMU’s Faculty of Humanities,(left), and Associate Professor Dr. Tanun Anumanraja, Vice President for International Relations and Human Resources Development, (right), at Chiang Mai University.
As he explained, “On this visit, I am wearing several hats - commercial, political and consular. I will also be meeting with representatives from the Burmese population resident in the Chiang Mai area. Burma shares a 2,400km border with Thailand and, although Britain has an embassy in Rangoon, an important element of my job is to follow the situation in Burma, especially the way in which it impacts on Thailand. Roughly 2 million Burmese are believed to be living in Thailand, many illegally; Thailand is also host to 140,000 Burmese refugees in camps. There can surely be no doubt, therefore, that it is in Thailand’s interest for Burma to be a stable and prosperous neighbour.” In a summary of the political situation in Burma, he stressed the continuing abuse of fundamental human rights, the crackdown on the demonstrations in Rangoon, and the 2,000 political prisoners that are still detained. He paid tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi as a beacon of hope in the Burmese people’s struggle for democracy, reminding the audience that it is 18 years since her victory in democratic elections, and that since then she has spent 12 of the past 18 years in detention. He then spoke on Cylcone Nargis, describing it as the worst humanitarian disaster since the Asian Tsunami of 2004, with a death toll estimated at 120,000 and over 2.5 million people affected. He paid tribute to the Thai Government and the Thai Royal Family’s response in providing much-needed food and medical teams, and also mentioned the key role ASEAN has to play.

The British Ambassador, Quinton Quayle, calls on the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Chuchat Keelapang, at City Hall.
As regards Thailand itself, he noted that he was very impressed by the country’s development since he was last here, stating that the country’s GDP has increased six-fold, whilst Thai traditions and cultures are still being preserved. However, he said, there is still a huge economic gap between residents in Bangkok and the rural poor. Discussing the political scene, he noted that “there has been both change and continuity,” and said that when he was in Thailand 29 years ago as a junior diplomat, there were many political parties including the Democrats, Chart Thai, and Prachakorn Thai. Key politicians at that time were Khun Chuan, Khun Banharn, and Khun Samak; the Prime Minister was General Prem. “Returning to Thailand 29 years later is a bit like being in the film “Back to the Future,” he said, “So in a way, the political scene looks the same. But in another way, it has been through a lot of changes. In the intervening 29 years, there have been 16 governments, 5 coups, 5 constitutions, and the emergence of countless new political parties.” Continuing the topic, he compared the intervening years’ frenetic political activity to a farmer trying to decide which crops to grow. Following his speech, he answered questions from his appreciative audience.
That evening, Ambassador Quayle was the guest of honour at a dinner held at the Chedi Hotel by the British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand and co-sponsored by Thailand Privilege Card Co Ltd, (Thailand Elite). The 100 guests included consular officials, representatives of the co-sponsors, and both retired and business-owning UK expat residents in Chiang Mai. Rodney Bain, Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the guests prior to introducing the Ambassador, explaining that the BCCT is the largest chamber of commerce in Asia as well as being the oldest at 62 years. The theme of the evening was ‘Thailand Means Business’.
Ambassador Quayle began his speech by complimenting Eleanor Hardy, GM of the Chedi, and her staff for the way the hotel has retained the essence of the old British Consular Building, mentioning that he was one of the last people to officially stay in the building 29 years ago. He noted the vast changes in Thailand and Chiang Mai during the intervening years, remembering that if an expat fell ill in those days he would have been sent to Singapore for treatment as there were few facilities in the city. Tourism, he felt, has been exploited, and there are now major concerns about the environment and traffic pollution.
He explained that the UK is the biggest EU investor in Thailand with 5 billion dollars, and stressed that a major part of his role as ambassador is to assist and encourage British businesses in Thailand. Having noted that many opportunities still exist, he said that he had offered his official residence in Bangkok as a venue to promote British businesses. Finally, he told the guests that, as Chiang Mai brings back fond memories, he is willing to return, work permitting, to help the British contingent in any way possible.
The following morning, Ambassador Quayle toured the Abbeycrest and Cookson plants, followed by a meeting with the Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai. In the afternoon, he met with Robin Otto, MD of Futronix, a British digital lighting company based in Chiang Mai, and, prior to his evening flight to Bangkok, he met with Chuchat Keelapang, the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai.
If you are planning a special event, why not invite [email protected]?

Robin Otto, (left), owner of the Futronix factory, welcomes the British Ambassador.


A Tribute to the late Roxanna M. Brown

(1946-2008)

A celebration of the life of Dr. Roxanna M. Brown, one of the world’s leading Southeast Asian art historians, and a tribute to her courage and determination was organized by the Informal Northern Thai Group and held at the premises of the Alliance Francais recently. Below are the recollections of a friend and colleague, and her tribute to Dr. Brown’s scholarship and expertise in her field. Dr. Brown’s tragic and sudden death raises questions which must be answered by the US authorities.
Patricia Cheesman: I first met Roxanna in 1977 when I invited her to come to Laos to examine some ancient ceramics that had been found there. I was working with the UN on ceramics development projects at the time and wanted to research the traditional ceramics of the region so as to base my teaching on Lao historical art forms. At that time no official archeological excavations had been made and the few pieces that were available had been dug from two sites in Vientiane and Luang Prabang by local people or simply found on the surface. Several dozen pieces were in a collection at the ceramics centre where I taught and I wanted Roxanna to see them. She had just published her book, “The Ceramics of South-East Asia - Their Dating and Identification,” and I was impressed by her knowledge.
We soon became friends, as we enjoyed the same interests - ceramics, music, reading material and entertainment and we believed in the goodness of humanity. We had both experienced Asia at “grass roots” level and felt at home here. She felt she had been Asian in a previous lifetime, even before she became a Buddhist. She was very beautiful, petite and full of energy with bright blue eyes and dark golden hair, which she sometimes dyed black to look more Asian. Although she loved to party, Roxanna was a very private person. She once told me she had learned not to “wear her heart on her sleeve,” (a common defect of Westerners in Asian eyes), when she was a teenager. She had a very high IQ and was taunted by her classmates for it, especially the boys, so she decided to keep her opinions to herself and start dating. Her quiet nature gave her an immense presence and although she seemed reserved, she sheltered a quiet inner strength that saved her life later on and earned respect amongst her Asian colleagues.
Roxanna was born in Illinois, USA, on a chicken farm owned by her father, whom she feared for his temper and old fashioned ideas of a woman’s place in society. She first came to Asia in 1968 after she had graduated from Columbia University at age 21. With a degree in journalism, she headed for Vietnam where her brother, Fred Leo, had been serving in the US army. There she earned a living as a foreign correspondent and taught English. She went into villages and war zones as the youngest correspondent on location at the time. Roxanna’s compassion for humanity was deepened by her wartime experiences - she witnessed events that evolved into a great love for the Vietnamese people. It was during this time that she first came across kiln sites and ceramics in the Vietnamese bush that became her passion and subject for scholarship. From 1970 to 1975 she was based in Cambodia as a correspondent and continued her personal research in ceramics without any outside funding. At the same time, she enrolled for a Master’s degree at Singapore University, (from 1971 - 1973), and studied under the famous art historian Professor William Willetts. She was one of his favorite students, as she fulfilled his criteria of having “boundless enthusiasm, personal ambition, tenacity, intellectual curiosity, the ability to sacrifice personal comfort and a natural flair…” Her book was an expansion of her Master’s thesis on the identification and dating of South-East Asian Ceramics and Professor Willetts remained her mentor until his passing some years later. In 1975, she moved to Hong Kong and became assistant editor of the prestigious magazine Arts of Asia and in 1979 she launched the first International Asian Antiques Fair together with two partners. It was an enormous success and brought together Oriental art dealers and collectors from around the world to Hong Kong.
If wealth and comfort had been Roxanna’s goals in life she would have continued and succeeded in the corporate world and given up her treks into the jungles of Asia. But in the late 1980s, she started researching Thai and Lao ceramic sites and met Jo Ngerntongdee in Bangkok, a tall, dark and handsome Thai man of Mon origins. They were deeply in love and married soon after, but the foreign community were shocked that he was so many years her junior and from a totally different social class. She moved to Bangkok and became editor of Living in Thailand magazine. She published my first article on Lao Textiles and continued to encourage me to research this subject until her death. She was my mentor and unofficial research advisor and I contributed to her research in a very small way with my knowledge of ceramic technology. I lost touch with her temporarily when I moved to Australia in 1981, just before her son Jaime was born.
Life seemed good in those days but fate played an evil hand in early 1982 when Roxanna was knocked off her motor bike and crushed by a ten ton truck. She remembered the whole horror of it vividly throughout her life. The truck driver, on seeing that she was not dead had backed up to finish the job, as is not uncommon in Thailand, but she was able to roll her flattened body to the side of the road in time. Eye witnesses noted the number plate of the truck and took her to hospital, where she was left for dead until an intern noticed her hand twitch and the work on her smashed body began. All her ribs and internal organs were crushed but her head was uninjured due to a good helmet and unbelievable luck. She had to have one leg amputated above the knee and was in a coma for many months. The prolonged effect of the antibiotics and pain killers on her system left her with horrendous migraines and an incurable buzzing in her ears. It took her 3 years to recover enough to walk and often she would tell me that it was the love and joy she received from her son Jaime that had saved her life.
As if this ordeal was not enough, she awoke from her coma to find that her best friend, (a foreigner), and her Thai lawyer had made a deal with the trucking company and back-dated the records of the truck ownership to a poor farmer in Phitsanulok. When she was awarded 4 million baht damages by a Thai court, she was unable to claim a penny of it. Handicapped, depressed and penniless she returned to the States where her brother and mother nursed her back to health. As soon as she was able, she returned to Bangkok with Jaime, limping on a prosthetic leg and started work at her old editing job. Her bravery and resilience at this time was amazing. She was in great pain as the prosthetic leg was poorly fitted and caused heat rash, blisters and infections for which she was often hospitalized. At home, she used a wheelchair but found it difficult to get around in Bangkok, which even to this day is not wheelchair friendly.
In 1986, she and Jaime moved to Chiang Mai after much coaxing from me. Roxanna’s self-confidence was at an all-time low but with an invitation from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University, she started teaching ceramics history as part of the Southeast Asian Art and Culture course in the Thai Art section; the brain-child of Ajarn Vithi Panichapant. She often mentioned to me that this rescued her and the community of the art school was a great support for her psychologically. She continued to teach there part-time, even after she had left Chiang Mai.
Roxanna was a convener of the INTG here and was very happy in Chiang Mai but her income was barely sufficient to pay the school fees for Jaime and her home and medical bills. Constant pain and noise in her head required sleeping pills and pain killers. She was covered in scars from her accident that never fully healed and her bones were very fragile. Nevertheless, she opened the Hard Rock Café near Thapae Gate for added income and was well known for her humor and generosity. Her trusting nature was often taken advantage of, as when she tried to buy a tuk-tuk but the man who was taking her final payment to the suppliers drove off with it and disappeared. She then had a motorbike remodeled, and drove everywhere in all weathers, unstoppable as usual! A company that she assisted in their designs of walking sticks, wheel chairs and other handicap support equipment fitted her with a comfortable prosthesis, which made an enormous difference to her life.
Her new-found confidence took her back to the US to take her PhD, her life’s ambition. Her dissertation at UCLA was on marine archeology, which subsequently became a main focus for her work. She traveled from Indonesia to Malaysia and Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore with ease and lectured at conferences world-wide. At a seminar at the Princess Sirindhorn Centre in Bangkok in 2000, she met Khun Surat Osathanugrah, founder of Bangkok University, who gave her the opportunity to curate one of the largest collections of ceramics in Southeast Asia and edit a newsletter dedicated to the study of ceramics of the region. The museum was unofficially opened in 2002 and Roxanna gave workshops and watched over the museum’s 2,000 pieces with great pride. Her integrity and knowledge were impeccable and her articles in the museum’s newsletter would make a fine publication.
Roxanna loved to be stylish and invented a look that became her own - a long fitted top made of silk or cotton over black pants with a short jacket for warmth. This gave her the cover-up she wanted, in beautiful hand-woven Thai fabrics, (thus supporting the weavers, who wove special fabrics for her) and was her only luxury.
It was a great shock to me that she was accused of fraud in high-end antiques, the world of the rich and corrupt. Her financial situation showed clearly that she was not receiving dishonest money - she was such a sincere and honest person it is hard to know why the US authorities went after her. She was well aware and critical of others whose fraudulent research had brought job advancement and financial gain - I have not a single doubt of her innocence. The cruelty of this final insult to her reputation is compounded by her extraordinary life and state of her physical health. A person familiar with the US judicial system tells me that she may have been used a pawn in their game to reach the real crooks. On Friday, May 9 this year, Roxanna was arrested in Seattle, Washington and she died in custody 6 days later.
The circumstances of her arrest have been summarized by Professor Charles Keyes in his petition, (signed by over 460 people, most of whom were academics and colleagues of Roxanna’s), to the federal detention center in Seattle. Dr. Brown had been invited to present a paper, “The Sea Trade from China to Southeast Asia,” at a conference on “Maritime Asia in the Early Modern World” sponsored by the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Washington on May 10. Arriving in Seattle on May 8, she booked into the Watertown Hotel; on May 9, Professor William Lavely, the organizer of the conference, went to pick her up at the hotel. When he called her room, she told him she was being arrested. Professor Lavely reports that the arresting officers identified themselves to him as federal agents. He talked briefly with Roxanna, who told him she knew the arrest was about “that thing in Los Angeles. I made a mistake. I faxed my signature.” When he checked with the hotel later, he was informed that she had checked out.
Dr. Brown, according to local media, “was the first person arrested as part of a five-year undercover investigation into smuggled Thai artifacts at some Southern California museums and galleries.” The primary targets for this investigation appear to have been Jonathan Markell and his wife Cari, who run Markell Imports in Los Angeles. Local media stated that Dr. Brown was “accused of allowing her electronic signature to be used on appraisal forms for items that were donated at inflated prices to Southern California museums so collectors could claim fraudulent tax rebates”. Although Dr. Brown was arrested, the Markells, who were the primary focus of the investigation, have yet to be charged.
After her arrest, Dr. Brown was taken to the federal detention center at Seatac, a suburb of Seattle. She was to appear in court on May 12, but by then was too ill. It was not stated what her illness was, nor whether she was being treated. On May 13, she did appear in court, but died at the detention centre on May 14. An autopsy stated the cause of death as a perforated gastric ulcer. A spokesperson from the detention centre confirmed that Dr. Brown’s death was being investigated. Dr. Brown’s brother is pressing “wrongful death” charges, and all charges against her have been dropped.



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