‘Duen Song Lar Suebsan Lanna’ held to celebrate
Dr Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai’s 80th birthday
Lee Roy Webster
Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai was born on May 22, 1929, during the reign
of her grandfather, Major-General Chao Kaeo Nawarat, the last Chao Luang
Celebrations for the 80th birthday of this remarkable and much-loved Chiang
Mai lady were held over three days from May 22 to 24.
Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai takes to the stage at the Empress Hotel’s
Convention Centre to receive congratulations from the 900 guests at the Gala
Dinner held in celebration of her 80th birthday.
When her grandfather died at the age of 77, ending 157 years of ‘na
Chiengmai’ Lanna rulers, the system of Bangkok-appointed governors, in place
on the north since approximately 1875, assumed full responsibility for the
management of the province. The Thai Royal Family and the Bangkok court,
however, continued to acknowledge the vital historical role played by the
Lanna kings in the creation of a unified, modern Thailand. Thus, the
descendants of the last Lanna ruler have been allowed to use the title
Since her childhood, Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai has been much more than
a symbolic representative of past glories, in that she has worked tirelessly
for the benefit of Lanna culture and tradition in a way which has also
brought benefits to many sectors of the community. During her long years of
hard work, she has founded schools, and, most importantly, was involved in
the eradication of opium cultivation and its replacement by other forms of
agriculture. Another long-term project concerned the plight of the declining
elephant population in the north; her efforts have helped Chiang Mai
province to become the most important centre for elephant care and research
in all Thailand. In order to help workers in the traditional craft
industries, she has set up community businesses working with ceramics, wood
and Lanna handicrafts, and, for many years, she and her foundation have
cooperated with the municipality in preserving traditional building and the
beauty of the old city, a major tourist attraction in its own right. The
successful renovation and restoration of the old city walls was undertaken
with sponsorship sought out by Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai.
Chao says prayers at Wat Suan Dok with senior monks and leaders from major
Buddhist temples in the north.
The celebrations of this great lady’s 80th birthday began on the day itself,
May 22, at Wat Suan Dok, the place of burial for the ancestors of the na
Chiengmai family, and an important Lanna historical site. Senior monks and
leaders from major Buddhist temples in the north gathered together with
members of the aristocracy and representatives from the worlds of politics,
the military, economics, academia, the arts and culture and, of course, the
media. Chumporn Saengmanee, Chiang Mai deputy governor, was seated with Dr.
Chao and her family members as she received congratulations and presents
from the assembled 600 invited guests.
Another 1000 spectators were spread out in front of the temple, waiting to
join in the grand parade held later that day, after the religious
ceremonies, led by history and traditional culture and science professor Dr.
Pajom, had ended. The parade itself, featuring Thai traditional music,
decorated carriages, dancers in beautiful Lanna costumes and elephants, with
Dr. Chao herself seated in the midst of the glorious melee, began at the
temple, and wound its way around the cultural treasures of the old city. A
feast for the eyes, and a true celebration in honour of a treasured lady who
has done so much over so many years for her city and country.
Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai, at the Gala Dinner to celebrate her birthday,
accepts a 20,000 baht donation to her foundation from Dirk
On the following day, cultural celebrations were held all over the city,
with shows and events in schools, universities, culture centres and private
organisations, ending with firework displays in several parts of the
city—all in honour of Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai and her works.
The climax of the celebrations took place at the Empress Hotel’s Convention
Centre on the following evening, with a Gala Dinner and entertainment for
900 guests and sponsors, including members of the Lanna aristocracy, the
consuls of Japan and America, the province’s deputy governor, and
representatives from antiques and fashion businesses in the city, art
galleries, the Chiang Mai Night Safari, Maetang Elephant Camp, the military,
the world of the theatre, and local celebrities and dignitaries. Lanna dress
had been requested; the request was joyfully followed, not only by Thai
guests, but by a good number of farang ladies, all wearing stunning silks
ornamented by embroidery, beading, and gold and silver braid. One costume,
however, needs special mention—one well-known and compassionate lady wore a
traditional sash, on which was embroidered 5 words—‘ Free Aung San Suu Kyi’.
A seated Dr. Chao took her place at the centre
of a colourful parade that followed
a path around the cultural treasures of the old city on May 22.
As expected at this celebration of Lanna culture and history, the
entertainments were all of classic Lanna style, with dancers, artists,
musicians and singers all showing their expertise, to the delight of an
appreciative audience. A parade of different styles of Lanna costume,
including the style worn by Chiang Mai’s beloved Princess Dara Rassamee, was
a highlight of the evening, with fabulous and colourful woven silk
traditional skirts modelled by beautiful and elegant ladies, and two very
elaborate men’s costumes, one of which was antique, modelled by Wuttipong
Arayatumsopon and Dirk Weeber-Arayatumsopon, who presented a 20,000 baht
donation, one of many received, to Dr. Chao’s foundation. The most beautiful
creation, however, was an antique Royal Lanna princess’s skirt from the
collection of Srisanpanmai Chiang Mai’s director, Anchallee Siripasang.
The 3 day celebrations will, no doubt, live on in the city’s memory and
maybe even find their way into Chiang Mai’s history books. For those who
took even the smallest part, they will be long remembered as a celebration
of all that is worth preserving in this unique area of Thailand.
All of us at Chiang Mai Mail wish Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai long life
health and happiness, with the power to continue to be the ambassador of the
Lanna culture for many more years.
Living with Addiction (Part II)
In the second of two articles, the deliberately anonymous author
looks at some of the problems associated with addiction and some of the
help available to those addicts who want it.
In the previous article we began to see how hard it may be to treat
addicts no matter what their addiction may be. What is very common to
all types of addiction, including smoking, is that the person soon
becomes secretive and lies to self and others.
Most of these people begin to be ashamed of what they are doing, but
cannot find a way to stop. Many do try – problem drinkers try switching
from spirits to beer, or drug users try decreasing the frequency of
their intake, rationing out the pills or the substance over a longer
period of time; others try to use or imbibe only at weekends; some make
attempts to give up lighting a cigarette until the evening; some switch
to smoking a pipe.
Of course, what essentially is happening is that these attempts at
control inevitably fail but also indicate strongly that the use of the
substance is already beyond any sustained control. Ask yourselves this
question – how many of you have successfully cut down on your smoking
and even halved the number per day only to find some little time later
that you are back to square one? The same applies to drugs and alcohol –
the addict is hooked and the disease becomes increasingly progressive.
In the case of the smoker, it appears that a certain level of nicotine
in the body is what satisfies the craving and once this is reached,
consumption levels off. But not so in the case of the alcoholic or drug
addict – it seems that the body requires more and more over the longer
period of time.
Addicts in recovery often speak of a descent into an oblivious state of
living – often over a number of years, sometimes most of a lifetime;
with others, the descent is far more rapid. The lying that sets in is a
defense mechanism – the addict does not want others to know of their
plight and many go to extraordinary lengths to hide the facts from those
closest to them. Doctors have great difficulty in treating cases as the
addicts invariably lie.
One psychiatrist, a respected doctor treating alcoholics, once told me
that whenever an addict told him how much he consumed per day, he
automatically doubled the figure and was usually quite close to the
truth. The addict of course often fools him or herself too – if they are
drinking heavily, they often cannot remember how much they have consumed
over a given period of time – similarly for the drug addict. The smoker
has a clearer idea, but still often fails to be honest about their
Of course, all this lying and secrecy, plus the legal, social and maybe
even ethical considerations and implications all add to the difficulties
of making treatment effective.
One of the first steps to recovery has got to be rigorous honesty in
recognizing and admitting that there is a problem; many people find this
too difficult a task in the beginning. This is why so many fall at the
first fence and return to their habit.
Scare tactics do not work either – many governments have tried by
advertising the risks with shock-horror type images, banning advertising
of alcohol and cigarettes, doctors saying ‘you only have six months to
live if you go on using like this’ – nearly all fail. Why? Because the
person has an addiction which is deep-seated in their psyche and this
needs first of all the open-mindedness and willingness of the addict to
accept their condition before any real progress can be made. If this is
accepted, then sustained and careful treatment may become effective.
Many addicts suffer from obsessional and compulsive disorders (OCD).
Treating these recognized medical conditions is also very difficult –
going back to a paragraph from the previous article, how do you stop
someone from cleaning the house several times a day? How do you convince
someone that ornaments do not have to be symmetrical for life to go on
Of course, not everyone who suffers from OCD is going to become an
addict, but the chances are greatly enhanced as alcohol, drugs or
cigarettes can easily become the obsession. I once had a client who was
obsessed with a certain brand of French cigarettes – she had bought a
candle in the shape of the packet with the design on; she made coasters
with the cardboard packets suitably laminated; she had advertising
posters framed which hung on her walls and she also made bookmarks from
the packets. We have all heard of people collecting beer mats or drip
cloths; and the list could go on.
But once the addict – for whatever reason – turns to whatever source of
help is available, and does so voluntarily and without reservation, then
a recovery is possible and millions are living proof of this. Many
countries now sponsor drug rehabilitation centres, many of which deal
with addiction to medicines such as tranquillisers as well as ‘hard’
drugs; there are alcohol treatment centres and other forms of
detoxification units worldwide.
There are also thousands of self-help groups functioning
internationally, the most widely accepted and successful ones being
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, with Nicotine Anonymous,
Overeaters Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous now flourishing as well. And
what is the success rate? This is difficult to estimate, and reliable
statistics do not exist. There is no ‘cure’ for addiction, only a
suspension of the disease, which means total abstinence for the addict –
there is no going back to small amounts or substitutes.
It would appear from medical research, as yet incomplete, that ‘once an
addict, always an addict’ is the order of the day – the very fact that
the person becomes addicted means that some sort of change takes place
physically, mentally and spiritually within themselves so that the
addict has to accept this fact.
The self-help groups and many of the clinics and rehabilitation centres
now preach the doctrine of living life ‘one day at a time’ to help the
addict come to terms with this phenomenon. Millions of people world-wide
have recovered from being active addicts with the assistance and help on
Most recovering addicts return to a happy social life in a quiet and
unassuming manner, rarely letting others in the outside world know of
their former addiction, but usually keeping in regular contact with
other former sufferers through the self-help groups. In Thailand, these
groups flourish alongside those supported and sustained by the
government and provide a powerful force in helping newcomers and old
hands alike live effectively with their addictions.
There is only one Drug Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre in Chiang Mai
at 182, Chotana Road, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai 50180; the centre also treats
alcoholism and the phone is (+66) (0) 53 297 976-7; the website for
further information is www.drugcare.net.
There is further help through the Fahmai Clinic Out Patient Care Centre,
at 2/3-2/5 Sirindhorn Road near to Kwang Sing junction of the
Superhighway and Chang Peuk Road, Amphur Meuang, Chiang Mai 50300,
telephones: (+66) (0) 53 226 135 and (+66) (0) 53 226 145.
Narcotics Anonymous website for meetings and other information:
Alcoholics Anonymous meets over 20 times a week in Chiang Mai and their
website is: www.aathailand .org. The national helpline is: (+66) (0)
2231 8300 and the local phone: (+66) (0) 844 850 100. There is now one
Thai speaking meeting in Suan Prung Hospital at 1400 on Thursday
Nicotine Anonymous can be contacted on (+66) (0) 86194 6300