The recent regular monthly meeting of the Chiang Mai Friends’ Group
was held at the Just Khao Soy restaurant, behind Anusarn Market, with the
special guest of honour, Dr. Duentemduang, the city’s mayor, welcomed by
The meeting began with a report of the wonderful day spent by a number of
members and their friends up at Ban Papai during the latest tree planting
event. Next, the group’s president, Duenpen Chaladlam, announced a project
in cooperation with the municipality which aims to increase awareness in the
community of garbage management and the importance of recycling and correct
The really welcome news was that the ‘Edible Garden’ project announced
earlier, involving an area of city land on which poor families will be
invited to grow organic produce for sale is almost up and running. For the
first year, Tom Yam vegetables and also herbs will be grown.
Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, sprinkles perfumed water
on members of CMF, in the traditional Songkran ceremony of respect for older
After a delicious meal and a great deal of talk amongst friends, Dr,
Duentemduang was invited to speak. Firstly, she explained her present
position, in that she is still officially the Mayor of the city, as no final
decision has yet been taken by the Bangkok Electoral Commission, and there
are legal complications to the court’s decision. As a result, an election
will not yet be called as a decision may be some months away.
The Mayor then spoke about her reasons for being at the meeting, explaining
that Songkran is a time where people return to their family homes for rest,
to make merit, and to atone for past mistakes. Younger people ask for
blessings and give blessings to older friends and family, asking for help
and good luck in the following year. Therefore, she said, as a younger
person she would like to ask for help from CMF group and would wish to give
blessings to its members. In the simple and beautiful ceremony which
followed, Dr. Duentemduang sprinkled perfumed water on the group’s members,
blessing and thanking them in the age-old way.
In the open forum which followed, several members spoke, asking questions
and giving comments about the present economic and political situation. Dr.
Duentemduang replied that, “Even now, the effects of violence are confined
only to a very small minority; the majority of the Thai people are getting
on with their lives. The economic problems are far more serious; education
needs to vastly improve, as does tourism. The Prime Minister should be
allowed to get on with his job - everyone should get on with their jobs, and
do them as well as possible. In this way; although it is very sad to see
Thais at odds with Thais, if we all pull together, things will steadily
Following the open forum, two farang representatives from the city’s Tourist
Police gave a talk, explaining that the division had been originally set up
to assist farang visitors and residents who may find themselves in
difficulty. The sector is responsible for Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Lampang,
and is staffed by Thai and farang volunteers, of whom at least 40 are
In Chiang Mai, the Tourist Police are stationed at the Airport, the bus
terminals, the train station and in the Night Market, regularly assisting
with problems such as lost passports, minor, (and occasionally major),
crime, scams, trekking permits and suchlike. The volunteers work with the
regular police force, but have no absolute authority. The scheme itself
began 5 years ago in Chiang Mai, and has now spread to major resort towns
elsewhere in the kingdom.
Volunteers serve 20 hours per month on a 24/7 shift basis, and are
considered to be working for the Thai government with its permission. More
volunteers are required.
To end the evening, Duenpen gave an entertaining slideshow illustrating some
differences between Westerners and Asians. Memorable comparisons included
‘Punctual-NOT!’, ‘Tan-white’, ‘Orderly queues – what’s a queue?’, Love dogs
- love kids’, ‘Self-confident - Not!’, and Solve problems directly - go
An interesting point was that Westerners tend to memorise their travels,
whilst Thais love to take thousands of photographs, many involving
themselves! Western independence compared with the Asian concept of the
group (family, business associates, etc), was also noted.
A very enjoyable meeting ... the group’s next get-together is on May 27, for
more info please call 053- 449-242.