Vol. VIII No. 13 - Tuesday
March 31 - April 6, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Chiang Mai FeMail 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

A most happy birthday to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

City or Country – we all need good neighbours

Amari goes darkin support of Earth Hour

 

A most happy birthday to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

(Photo courtesy Bureau of the Royal Household)

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was born on April 2, 1955, the third child of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand.
HRH the Princess studied from kindergarten to high school at Chitralada School in Bangkok. She ranked first in the National School Examinations in the primary level (grade 7) in 1967 and in upper secondary level (grade 12) in 1972.
Ranked fourth in the National University Entrance Examination, HRH the Princess enrolled in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, first class honor, and a gold medal in History in 1976. She continued her studies in two graduate programs concurrently, obtaining an M.A. in Oriental Epigraphy (Sanskrit and Cambodian) from Silpakorn University in 1978, and an M.A. in Pali and Sanskrit from Chulalongkorn University in 1980. She enrolled in a doctoral program at Srinakharinwirot University (former College of Education) in 1981, and was awarded a doctoral degree in Developmental Education in 1987.
The principle of using education as a means for community and social development, which HRH the Princess acquired during her doctoral studies along with her former experiences in the field, has provided her with a solid base for her subsequent involvement in community development activities.
In addition to her formal degree programs, HRH the Princess has attended several training courses and workshops to enhance her knowledge and skills in effective integrated development. These subjects include computer, cartography, meteorology, survey and photogrammetry, remote sensing and geographic information system and nutrition.
HRH the Princess has acquired first-hand experiences in working on development projects initiated by Their Majesties the King and Queen. These projects involve a number of diversified fields including health and hygiene, education, water resource development, agriculture and cottage industry by regularly accompanying Their Majesties on visits to remote areas since the age of sixteen.
From these experiences, HRH the Princess has developed special interests in agricultural extension to improve school children’s nutritional conditions; supports education from pre-school to tertiary levels; and mother and child care. She has also concentrated on helping the handicapped, especially in using information technology (IT) to develop independent living and learning skills.
HRH the Princess runs several philanthropic organizations and foundations. She has been Executive Vice President of the Thai Red Cross Society since 1977; Executive Chairman of the Chaipattana Foundation (in charge of His Majesty’s development and environmental preservation projects), Ananda Mahidol Foundation (to promote higher education), the King Rama II Foundation (to conserve and promote Thai Culture); President of the Sai Jai Thai Foundation (to support disabled veterans), Prince Mahidol Award Foundation (to award prizes annually to members of the international community for outstanding performances in the fields of medicine and public health); and Adviser of the Committee of Thai Junior Encyclopedia Project by Royal Command of H.M. the King.
HRH the Princess began her teaching career in 1979 when she started teaching the General Education Program at Chulalongkorn University. A year later, she joined the Department of Law and Social Sciences, in the Academic Division of Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. Presently she is Director of the Department of History, and has played an active part in revising its curriculum. She also supervises the Thai Music Club at the Academy. Occasionally HRH the Princess gives special lectures at several other institutions and regularly attends academic conferences and seminars both in and outside the country.
In addition, HRH the Princess represents Their Majesties in various royal functions. She also presides over ceremonies as well as other social and charity functions all through the year. In 1991, HRH the Princess was awarded the Magsaysay Award for Public Service.
HRH the Princess likes to travel around the Kingdom and abroad to obtain knowledge of physical geography and peoples’ varied lifestyles. One of her favorite pastimes is writing articles, poetry and short stories. Proceeds from her written accounts of her overseas travels are the main source of income for the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Foundation which was set up in 1979 to support needy students in schools, vocational colleges and universities.
HRH the Princess loves Thai literature and studies literature of other countries. She enjoys playing classical Thai instruments and practicing Thai classical dancing. She also paints and is keen on sports, including jogging, swimming, biking and trekking - which gives her an opportunity to learn about plants, trees and geographical features of the areas.
In addition to her knowledge of Pali, Sanskrit and Cambodian, HRH the Princess is communicative in both English and French and has been learning Chinese, German and Latin.

 

City or Country – we all need good neighbours

Elena Edwards
At a time when rumours are circulating in the media about the release of 62 year-old Nobel Peace Laureate and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, China’s stance on the Burmese issue, regarded as a major stumbling block to progress on human rights and a true democracy in that benighted country, may even be easing, according to a statement made at the UN Human Rights Council by China’s Geneva representative.
On March 16, Yan Jiarong stated that the entire international community’s interest would be served by the resolution of difficulties and challenges in the issues of development and reconciliation in the troubled state. His comments, made in response to a recent UN report on Burma’s appalling human rights record, represent a major change; previously, China had refused to be drawn into discussions on the subject, referring to it as an ‘internal matter.’ A number of Chinese high officials have visited the country recently, meeting with Gen.Than Shwe and army chiefs, and there would appear to be concern about the country’s economic position during the current world financial crisis, which has disastrously affected Burma’s highly lucrative trade in gems.
Combined with another recent UN ruling that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is illegal, both in terms of Burmese domestic law itself and international law (and a possible hardening of the position of Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, who may have realised that the Junta Generals are not such great Buddhists after all…) is international opinion finally moving towards serious condemnation of the Junta’s behaviour, and, if it is, will the Generals see fit to take notice and modify their stance?
This remains to be seen, as does any resulting action by the rest of the world which may result in the development of true democracy in Thailand’s strife-torn neighbour.
And Aung San Suu Kyi’s release? This should have taken place in May 2008 – the same month in 2009 will see the 6th anniversary of her current term of house arrest. The term used by Junta officials, when questioned, is ‘quasi-judicial detention.’ Whatever that oblique phrase actually means (even experts in international law aren’t sure!), the hard fact remains that she is being illegally detained. She represents her people, the Burmese people, she has suffered with them and for them. It doesn’t seem too much to ask of governments worldwide (and closer to home!) who have been ‘talking the talk’ for some years now, to ‘walk the walk’ and take positive action to finally ensure her release, not to mention the release of the Burmese nation itself!
Burma and the plight of its citizens, however (despite our awareness and concern for its people), may be ‘once removed’ from our own perception of reality, due perhaps to our Western origins. Life here in Chiang Mai is another matter. For many of us, our initial perception, encouraged by online reports, has been replaced by a strong sense that those reports may have been exaggeratedly positive. ‘Paradise’ is a word we may have read, or heard, rather more than once… A more apposite comment, also often read or heard, is, ‘Living here is nothing like coming here on holiday!’
Most would-be CM residents, before they arrive, spend a great deal of time forming an impression of their intended destination from many different online sites. I certainly did. Thai Visa leads the pack as regards actual expat experiences, even a though one may have to sift through pages of off-topic posts and occasionally accusative rants. Comparisons can easily be made between local forums in, for example, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Bangkok – these three invariably include threads of practical interest as well as announcements of events, new restaurants, etc. However, as with internet forums worldwide, content is controlled by moderators.
While no-one would suggest that moderation of posts or threads is totally undesirable, the practice, dependent on the forum’s policy and the individual moderator, can easily result in an imbalance of topics or responses leading to a slanted perception of reality, of what really does happen in any specific area. ‘Big Brother’ and the Nanny State, it may seem, are not confined to the countries we left because of their creeping influence!
In the real world of Thailand, in spite of online attempts to persuade us otherwise, horrible things do happen. People get murdered, prejudice runs rampant, drug dealers ply their trade, fraud happens, domestic abuse creates misery and single mothers, HIV/AIDS kills both adults and children, human trafficking destroys lives, just the same as in any other country in this imperfect world. And, perhaps one of the most sensitive and destructive issues, paedophilia, raises its revolting head every so often. A Google search reveals Thai Visa and other threads on the subject, some as late as last December. But…none, it seems, are from Thai Visa’s Chiang Mai (TVCM) forum.
In last week’s paper, on the front page, a story concerning the arrest of two men for sexual abuse of young girls was printed. In the TVCM forum, a lone poster has attempted, by copying and pasting the text, to start a thread. However, a moderator seems to have immediately closed the thread. Policy…perhaps? Recently, other somewhat controversial threads have either been truncated or closed…policy again? A policy for what? To encourage the, somewhat outdated, vision of Chiang Mai as ‘Paradise?’ To make life easier for the moderators…it’s faster to close an entire thread than to carefully read each post and delete seriously offensive material? Or, do TVCM’s moderators truly believe that we all need protecting from the realities of life and the need to express our opinions in the public domain?
Perhaps we should confine ourselves to posting on TV’s Pattaya forum, where, it would seem, no such restrictions exist. Or maybe we should, individually, contact TVCM’s moderators and tell them to get real and respect our human right of freedom of speech. Within reason, of course. Chiang Mai is a wonderful place to live, for many reasons, but the dark side of human nature never fails to assert itself, wherever humans congregate. To ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t happen, or to suppress debate on its manifestations, only encourages it to grow and thrive. According to Edmund Burke, ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ Isn’t the prevention of free expression a way of forcing good men to do nothing?
Suddenly, Burma doesn’t seem so very far away…


Amari goes darkin support of Earth Hour

Elena Edwards
Some of us, who have the time or the inclination to lounge in front of the TV may have noticed entreaties (where there used to be adverts before the economic crunch hit in!) to switch off all electric lights for an hour between 8.30 and 9.30 p.m. on March 28. Wherever we live on the planet, ‘Earth Hour’ is intended to engender massive support for the fight against global warming and the ‘Save the Planet’ initiatives now springing up worldwide – even here in Thailand! Over 900 cities and towns in 80 countries across the globe are involved in this symbolic action.
By the time this paper hits the streets, those of us in town last Saturday may have noticed that Chiang Mai, or at least a popular corner of the city, was also involved. The Amari Rincome Hotel, together with all 17 hotels and resorts in the Amari group, was committed to joining in and switching off all unnecessary lighting during ‘Earth Hour,’ and will have been encouraging its guests to support this phenomenal world event in the belief that ‘We CAN make a difference!’ The hotel chain has also initiated a Green Initiative. To learn more, please visit www.amari. com/green-hotel.aspx.
This is good. Wish the rest would follow suit! Apart from anything else, we women fully appreciate the amount the electricity bill decreases when we switch off unnecessary lights… It’s a win-win thing!



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