Vol. VIII No. 48 - Tuesday
December 1 - December 7, 2009

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Doi Inthanon residents commemorate King Inthawichayanon

U.S. Ambassador helps to preserve Phrae’s traditional old homes


Doi Inthanon residents commemorate King Inthawichayanon


U.S. Ambassador helps to preserve Phrae’s traditional old homes

Shana Kongmun
The many stately old wooden homes of Phrae province received a boost when the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Eric G. John, was on hand to present a check from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Program to Dr. Pisit Chareonwongsa, Director of SEAMEO-SPAFA (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization). The Community Based Architectural Heritage Preservation Project in Phrae, operating under the supervision of the SEAMO-SPAFA, will work to raise public awareness of the value and importance of traditional architecture with a hope to engaging the local community in working towards preservation of old building techniques and buildings.

Eric G. John, the U.S.Ambassador to Thailand presents a symbolic check for $20,000 to Dr. Pisit Charoenwongsa and Phrae Deputy Governor Seri Kampirathammo.
The magnificent former home of the last Chao Luang, or Lord of Phrae, was the site of the presentation ceremony and a better location could not have been chosen. This lovely old building boasts a museum featuring many of Phrae’s archaeological interests. The former Governor’s home dates back to the last Lord of Phrae, Chao Phiriya Thepawong, who founded Phrae’s first school, the Piriyalai School which is still open, and established Phrae’s first police force.
Ambassador John told the assembled group that this is the 9th Ambassador’s Cultural Fund grant to be given in Thailand. “We are donating 20,000 dollars to inventory and document the beautiful traditional wooden houses that we see in Phrae, raise public awareness in the value of the traditional architecture in Phrae, and to engage the local community in the preservation of these houses”, he continued, “I think we would all agree that Thailand’s cultural heritage is one of its most precious assets”

U.S. Ambassador Eric G. John and Eugene Long join the Director for the Seri Thai museum at the rebuilt museum in Phrae.
Ambassador John, along with Phrae’s Deputy Governor, the Vice President of the Phrae Provincial Administration Organization, the President of the Phrae Cultural Council, Phrae’s mayor, Chiang Mai University students, members of the media and the local community, all enjoyed a traditional dance performance from students from the Nariwat School in Phrae.
The group, joined by well known advocate for the Yellow Leaf people, or the Mlabri as they prefer to be known, Eugene Long and his daughter Crystal, along with assembled group, then took a tour through Phrae on the three wheeled pedicabs known as samlors. The procession visited Vongburi House, built in 1897 by Luang Ponpiboon and his wife Chao Sunantha, descended from the former Chao Luang. This beautiful home still remains in the family and now holds exhibits featuring antique furniture and original family documents. The elaborate wood carvings are original to the house, which has been repainted its original pink color.

The former home of Phrae’s last Chao Luang, Lord Phiriya Thepawong, the site of the check presentation.
Several other old teak homes, including a 113 year old home that belonged to the first Presbyterian missionaries, were visited. Undergoing renovations, it is hoped that they will eventually be restored to their former glory. The tour wrapped up with a visit to the Seri Thai, or Free Thai museum, which showcases the wartime efforts of the Thai resistance to the Japanese.

U.S. Ambassador Eric G. John greets his pedicab driver.
The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation was established by the U.S. Congress in 2001 and has helped preserve cultural sites, practices and objects that are historically or culturally significant. “The Fund allows American ambassadors to support efforts of their host countries to rescue cultural heritage that is fragile and in danger of being lost forever” Ambassador Eric G. John has said. The Fund is currently taking applications for its 2010 grants and encourages people to submit proposals before the December 10 deadline. Applications can be found online: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/afcp2010.html

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