have arrived at yet another milestone...
Our 10th Anniversary
Long live Her Majesty Queen Sirikit
Mother of our Nation
Mail staff joins the entire Kingdom in sending our humble best wishes to Her
Majesty Queen Sirikit, Mother of our nation, on the auspicious occasion of Her
Birthday, August 12. We would also like to take this opportunity to ask everyone
to do something nice for their mother, and to wish everyone a Happy Mother’s
Day. Please see our special publication inside, written by Peter Cummins in
honor of Her Majesty the Queen.
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit:
Caring Mother of the Thai nation
Happy Birthday Your Majesty
August 12, 2003
by Peter Cummins
Photos courtesy of
The Bureau of the
The whole Kingdom of Thailand rejoices and celebrates
the birthday of the Her Majesty the Queen, the “Mother of the Nation”
and, by extension, pays a tribute to Thai Motherhood, as Thailand also
honours “Mothers’ Day”, at this time.
Shortly after Her Majesty’s 70th birthday last year, a
splendid gala, featuring a Thai silk fashion show appropriately called
“Queen of Silk”, was held in Her Majesty’s honour at Government
House. The highlight of the spectacular evening was the conferring upon the
Queen, the Louis Pasteur Award, by the International Sericultural
Commission and the Brussels Eureka 2001, conferred by the National Research
Council of Thailand.
As an added honour, the Ministry of Agriculture and
Cooperatives commissioned a special musical tribute called “Mai Rak”
(Love of Silk), “in appreciation of Her Majesty’s role and activities
in Thai silk and developing it to a world standard over the past five
The awards coincided with the staging of the 19th
Congress of the International Sericultural Commission - the first time
Thailand has ever had the honour of holding this prestigious event. Thus it
was a fitting tribute to Her Majesty, witnessed by some 500 sericulture
experts from more than 23 countries who attended the Congress.
Of course, a familiar sight to the Thai people and,
certainly those at the Congress, is the Queen attired in Thai silk,
particularly Mudmee (known also as Ikat), Korat and Chiang Mai silks.
During her trips around the Kingdom and abroad, the
Queen invariably wears Thai silk, as do those of her staff who accompany
her. As a result of this exposure, the international community has learned
to admire the beauty of Thai silk and to appreciate a handicraft that is
In the beginning
On the fifth of May, 1950, King Bhumibol Adulyadej was
crowned King of Thailand and his first official proclamation was to elevate
his bride of just one week, the Thai Ambassador to London’s beautiful
daughter Sirikit - the name appropriately meaning beauty and honour - to
become Queen Somdej Phranang Chao.
The new King of Thailand, in turn, gave to the Thai
people a beautiful and loving Queen who has spent a lifetime contributing
to their welfare.
Early in their reign, when visiting remote areas, the
Royal Couple were disturbed by the plight of the rural people, the lack of
educational and medical facilities and, not the least, poor nutrition which
aggravated all other problems. The King determined to take positive action
to help the farmers, while Her Majesty focused on “the home”, seeking
ways to enable the women-folk to earn cash to help alleviate the grinding
and debilitating poverty.
As recently as last year, in fact, with the welfare of
the hilltribe people foremost in her mind, the Queen asked the Third Army
to drop its plans of moving them to lowlands, fearing “such re-location
will affect their way of life”.
The SUPPORT Foundation
Almost coinciding with Her Majesty’s 71st birthday
next week, is the 27th anniversary of the founding, on 21 July 1976, of the
Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, popularly known by the
acronym SUPPORT. The foundation was established to place, on a more formal
basis, the activities started by the Queen, to initiate cottage industries
for village and farm women, without the necessity of leaving home.
>From her own personal funds, Her Majesty supplied
weaving looms and materials to make fabrics, clothing and soft goods, as
well as providing equipment to produce other marketable items. Having lived
in Europe for many years, the Queen was conversant with the enormous
diversity of European arts and culture and thus recognized the variety of
crafts and styles distinctive to different regions of Thailand: hand-woven
fabrics, basket-ware and rattan products, utensils and a myriad other
Majesty is justifiably well known for her clear perception and this rose to
remarkable heights with her outstanding vision for making SUPPORT into a
viable proposition. She brought back from retirement former court artisans
to teach presumably lost crafts to a ‘new generation’ - even
grandmothers. The Queen’s advice to the ‘retirees’ was that,
“Before they urged the villagers to make anything, they must be certain
that the end-product is marketable - and not made for charity alone which
does not provide a real livelihood. SUPPORT is designed to make the
villagers self-reliant,” the Queen emphasized.
Particular stress was placed upon bringing
physically-handicapped people to work at SUPPORT projects, raising their
confidence and creating a satisfaction for each person who was, thus,
achieving a level of self-reliance by being able to earn an income - and
not having to rely on charity or handouts to survive.
Mudmee Silk is but one of the Queen’s legacies to the
Foundation. It was Her Majesty who ‘resurrected’ this almost-forgotten
weaving craft, indigenous to the northeast. Mudmee, meaning literally
‘tied threads’, is an intricate ‘tie and die’ process which
produces brilliant colours, each piece being unique and the pattern is the
individual imagination of the weaver - there are no blueprints to follow.
Due to Her Majesty’s guidance, as well as to her wearing of Mudmee at
official functions in Thailand and abroad, Mudmee silk is universally known
as a distinctive, exotic and outstandingly beautiful Thai artefact.
This writer had the good fortune to visit the Silk
Museum, adjacent to the Community College, Ban Kookard, in Khon Kaen
Province, when undertaking an educational assignment commissioned by the
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) last year. It was a journey into
a hall of beautiful, shimmering and intricate design, carefully laid out.
Many projects to raise living
Although probably best known for the SUPPORT project,
the Queen’s great determination to raise the living standards and improve
the quality of life for the Thai people has led to many other projects,
beneficial to the people and Nature equally. For example, there are the
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, The Forest Loves Water and The Little House
in the Big Forest Projects.
During her ongoing visits - often with the King and
other members of the Royal Family - to the remotest and poorest areas of
the country, Her Majesty soon realized that it was preservation and wise
use of the natural resources and environmental protection which were the
imperative components in striking a balance between the welfare of human
settlements and Nature.
The Queen was most disturbed by the deterioration of
these vital elements, particularly the water resources, which she observed
on each visit, were either becoming depleted or badly degraded. The end
result was a further blow to the well-being and improved way of life for
even her least subjects.
The Queen encouraged the people, “To bond together in
order to protect the forests which are sources of the watershed and natural
food,” and at the same time, “Encouraging the people to use natural
resources properly and efficiently, to achieve sustainable benefits.” The
Queen also urged the people to become self-reliant and, “To grow food and
garden crops, to undertake a comprehensive cultivation of herbal plants and
raise animals as a food source.”
One outcome of this loving care for even the least of
her subjects has been the establishment in 1996 of the Queen Sirikit
Botanic Garden, located at the Mae Rim District in Chiang Mai Province. The
Garden was opened to serve as a Thai plant conservation centre where
botanical research and study is undertaken to maintain the vast
biodiversity of Thai flora. This includes collection and propagation of
indigenous, rare and endangered species of flora. Thai orchids, herbal
plants and a vast array of native woods are conserved here, as part of the
Queen’s legacy to present and future generations.
In 1997 and 1998, the Queen initiated a project to
establish three demonstration farms, two of which are in Chiang Mai
Province at Baan Khun Tae, Moo 5, Chom Thong District and at Baan Mae
Tungting, Moo 5 Samoeng District. The third is located in Chiang Rai
Province, at Baan Rom Fah Thong, Moo 9, Viang Kaen District.
H.M. the Queen regularly visits these remote areas to
see at first-hand how the quality of life is improving for the farmers who
now have secure occupations, are husbanding different types of animals for
food and, equally-importantly, are now protecting the forest, wildlife and
the watershed - in fact, the environment as a whole - from any further
Just recently, in fact, the Queen “urged Thais to feel
more grateful for their blessed country - the golden lands that have
provided them with shelter and the abundant resources that have sustained
In Ubon Ratchathani, close by the border of Laos, lies a
natural forest called Dong Na Tham, a huge area covering some 50,000 rai
(approx. 80 m sq. metres). The hardships and poverty of the people in the
surrounding villages had caused the villagers to encroach on the natural
reserve, with disastrous results to the environment and ecology.
Based on His Majesty the King’s philosophy of a
“sufficiency economy”, the Queen initiated a number of alternatives to
the near-destitute farmers, with a most positive change, both to the
people’s lives and the surrounding environment.
The Queen recently pointed out that, “The forest is a
water resource for the people. Without forests, or if we keep destroying
the trees, though we gain more land, we will lose all water supply. The
land ... will become a desert. Forests should exist to preserve life and
water and maintain the rainfall which helps us to a better living...”
These are just some of Her Majesty’s initiatives which, over a lifetime
of devotion and dedication to Her people, have certainly improved the life
of Her subjects.
This brief dedication could be summed up in Her
Majesty’s own words, emphasizing her humanity, goodwill and, not the
least, her humour. “Has HM the King encouraged you to concentrate on work
for the well-being of the people?” the Queen was once asked in an
interview. “He did not encourage me at all ... he ordered me to,” the
Queen replied. “I will look after the land and the farmers and you must
look after their families,” the King said.
Happy Birthday Your Majesty from us all at the Pattaya