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- Thailand’s BCG Approach is a Whole-of-Society Endeavor
Thailand’s BCG Approach is a Whole-of-Society Endeavor As host economy for APEC 2022, one of Thailand’s key priorities has been to advance a balanced approach to sustainable development among APEC economies. Discussions of the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economic Model have received renewed attention in Thailand after the COVID-19 crisis exposed vulnerabilities in its tourism- and export-dependent […]
The post Thailand’s BCG Approach is a Whole-of-Society Endeavor appeared first on Thailand NOW.
Thailand’s BCG Approach is a Whole-of-Society Endeavor
As host economy for APEC 2022, one of Thailand’s key priorities has been to advance a balanced approach to sustainable development among APEC economies.
Discussions of the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economic Model have received renewed attention in Thailand after the COVID-19 crisis exposed vulnerabilities in its tourism- and export-dependent economy, while stretching thin its social safety nets.
At the International Academic Forum and fifth APEC Media Focus (AMF) Group on “APEC and Business Sustainability” held in mid-July at Mahidol University, academics, senior policymakers, and private sector representatives shared their views on how Thailand and other APEC economies can transition their industries for inclusive and sustainable growth.
The Nan Sandbox
During the academic forum’s first session, “BCG Economy in Thailand and Business Sustainability,” Prof. Piyamitr Sritara, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital at Mahidol University, highlighted the Nan Sandbox as a model in implementation of the BCG Economy Model.
The northern Thai province of Nan has long struggled with forest clearing for agriculture. Banthoon Lamsam, Chairman Emeritus of Kasikornbank PCL, was granted permits from the Thai government to tackle deforestation under the Nan Sandbox initiative.
With support from the public sector, entrepreneurs, university researchers, and the Nan people, mature trees were replanted in deforested areas surrounded by shade-tolerant plants, including high-value medicinal herbs like fingerroot (Boesenbergia rotunda) and turmeric. The pivot from conventional plantations to agroforestry has given Nan farmers a way to earn a living without sacrificing the environment.
The Nan Sandbox has become a case study for how the private sector, working with local communities and authorities, can implement the BCG approach to create a more sustainable value chain that benefits people, planet, and profits.
Transitioning to sustainability
Similar to the Nan Sandbox, Bangchak Corporation PCL has been pivoting away from an unsustainable business model and has identified nine Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the energy conglomerate will address through its business diversification.
Executive Vice President Gloyta Nathalang stated that Bangchak aims to become carbon neutral in 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions in 2050. To this end, it supports an e-motorcycle rental service it calls “Winnonie” and funds scientific studies by Kasetsart University into seagrass meadows, which are reportedly eight times more efficient per rai (0.16 hectares) at sequestering carbon than forests.
Meanwhile, the corporation is proactively transitioning to clean energy production and storage and fostering a “net zero ecosystem” to reduce waste and carbon emissions at its various business units. For example, its cafe unit, Inthanin Coffee, relies entirely on sustainable biodegradable packaging and bioplastics.
The Bangkok Goals
Prinat Apirat, Deputy Director-General, Department of International Economic Affairs, said, “There’s a lot of potential for Thailand and Thai companies to work on sustainability and push it further as the host of APEC 2022.”
As part of its deliverables for its APEC host year, Thailand aims to rally member economies around “The Bangkok Goals on the BCG Economy” to advance the regional forum’s sustainability agenda. By emphasizing a “whole-of-society” and “whole-of-APEC-system approach,” Thailand hopes to lay the groundwork for achieving the following:
- Climate action, including net-zero greenhouse gas emissions
- Sustainable trade and investment
- Sustainable management of resources and conservation of the environment and biodiversity
- Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management
H.E. Milicent Cruz Paredes, Ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand and Permanent Representative of UNESCAP in Thailand, was among the participants of the International Academic Forum and fifth AMF. She offered high praise for Thailand and its message for other APEC economies like the Philippines.
“What I saw today was very impressive. It gave a clear message and strategy for Thailand in terms of how it intends to recover from the pandemic and how it intends to address the economic challenges of Thailand and the rest of the world.”
The Philippine ambassador singled out the Nan Sandbox as one of the most tangible examples of multi-sectoral collaboration, with practical application in other countries.
“What’s striking was the example of the Nan Sandbox,” Paredes said, “because it projects the same challenges that are confronting our own farmers in the Philippines and the possible ways to move forward.”
The APEC Economic Leaders’ Week (AELW) from November 14th–19th, 2022 marks the end of APEC 2022 Thailand. The United States will take over hosting duties for APEC 2023.
The post Thailand’s BCG Approach is a Whole-of-Society Endeavor appeared first on Thailand NOW.10 August 2022Current Affairshttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9910
- Wear Thai Dresses to These Special Occasions
Wear Thai Dresses to These Special Occasions Thai fashion is magnetic, especially its distinctive traditional costumes, but many people are nervous about putting on their first Thai dress. The double-edged sword of Thailand’s distinct culture is that its intricate social rules can heighten anxiety around cultural appropriation. However, if you do your due diligence, you’ll […]
Wear Thai Dresses to These Special Occasions
Thai fashion is magnetic, especially its distinctive traditional costumes, but many people are nervous about putting on their first Thai dress. The double-edged sword of Thailand’s distinct culture is that its intricate social rules can heighten anxiety around cultural appropriation.
However, if you do your due diligence, you’ll find that Thai people are always very appreciative of those who do their best to observe the etiquette of wearing traditional outfits.
One way is to identify a few special occasions to don this beautiful ensemble. Luckily, there are plenty of excellent opportunities out there just waiting for you to seize. But first, let’s look at some sartorial symbolism.
Colors and patterns in Thai clothing
The majority of colors used in traditional Thai clothes in the past often symbolized the occasion of which the wearer was present. For example, if you wore red to a wedding, it would be frowned upon, given that red is the same color as blood and was thought to bring bad luck to the bride and groom. However, today, this color is now socially accepted by most Thais at modern weddings and can be commonly found in stores.
One color you do need to avoid is black, as it signifies bad luck and is thought to attract bad spirits in Thai culture. This color is only socially acceptable when attending a funeral.
Symbolism is important to the Thai people. There are many elegant patterns used in Thai culture and these are often found across a variety of media, including architecture, ceramics, and, of course, clothing.
These patterns embody designs inspired by nature: trees, leaves blowing in the wind, flames, lotus blossoms, orchids, elephants, and trellises. Many of these patterns date back hundreds of years and have their own fascinating histories.
Symbolism is also seen in the various gilded accessories worn with Thai clothing. Long ago, when the first Hindus made the journey to Siam from India, they brought with them their jewelry craftsmanship, which were adopted by the Mon and Khmer civilizations and gradually developed into their own artistic identity.
Indian jewelers often made use of gold and rubies in their works, and we can still see remnants of that Indian past in the extravagant works of the Ayutthaya period and even today. The headwear, belts, and bracelets worn with Thai outfits are reminiscent of those worn by the mythic characters of the Ramayana epic.
There are all sorts of traditional Thai holidays throughout the year where it is customary (or at least encouraged) to wear Thai outfits.
Perhaps the two biggest such Thai holidays are Songkran and Loi Krathong.
Songkran is the Thai new year which takes place in April. While in some parts of the country it’s often an excuse to grab a large water gun and party in the street, many other parts of the country still celebrate it the good old-fashioned way: with morning merit making and light water splashing, all while wearing Thai clothes. Songkran is an important time in Thailand as it’s when many people who have come to work in the big cities go back to visit their families in the country.
Loi Krathong, which falls in November, is when beautiful candle-lit krathongs festooned with flowers and banana leaves are set afloat on water bodies all across the countries as the full moon rises into the night sky. In the north, floating lanterns are released into the sky. It is believed that these lanterns carry away your negative thoughts and venerate the Lord Buddha with light. At Loi Krathong, traditional outfits are often worn as well.
The most common styles of dresses worn during these holidays are the Boromphiman, Ruean Ton, and Chakri.
Engagement ceremonies and weddings
Many weddings in Thailand are split into the morning ceremony and the evening reception. More and more, we see people at these events wear their traditional Thai outfits in the morning and then change into more modern suits and gowns in the evening. Imagine picking out two wedding dresses!
While there is no standard wedding outfit in Thai culture, brides typically choose from one of Chakri, Chitralada, Amarin, or Boromphiman styles that best fit their body type. Thai bridal “gowns” are typically two-piece, either with a form-fitting, long-sleeve silk top or a sabai (shawl) wrapped around the chest. The groom usually wears a similar white form-fitting, long-sleeve top with chong kben trousers.
Again, when attending a wedding in traditional attire, it’s important to avoid the color black, as this color is to be only worn during funerals and is thought to bring bad luck to the bride and groom.
Perhaps the most common reason to see someone decked out in their full traditional outfit complete with accessories is during a cultural performance. It is customary for many Thai dancers and musicians to wear these outfits during a show.
There are many forms of ram thai, or traditional Thai dance, and a lot of them have their own spin on what outfits work best. This form of dance is easily recognizable by the signature curved arch of the dancer’s fingers.
As for Thai music, you often see Thai outfits worn by players of the Thai ranat (a large type of xylophone) and the khim (hammered dulcimer) among other interesting Thai instruments.
Historical attractions & museums
There are a number of ancient historical attractions around Thailand where it is very common to see people wearing traditional outfits.
Some of these include UNESCO sites like Sukhothai Historical Park and Ayutthaya Historical Park, beautiful locations that give a glimpse into Siam’s majestic past. The spectacular ruins speak of a time gone by where glittering gold pagodas towered above wooden cities on stilts.
There are also many cities in Thailand that have an old quarter, or muang boran, where remnants like the old clay brick walls of Chiang Mai and the cannon turrets of Bangkok are juxtaposed against a modern metropolis.
Whether people wear these outfits at these places to really immerse themselves in the moment or whether it just makes for an excellent photo op, the fact remains that it looks pretty cool.
There are also several museums where wearing a Thai dress would be exceptionally “on brand.” The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles (QSMT) collects, reserves, and showcases textiles from Southeast, East, and South Asia, with an emphasis on the textile heritage of Thailand and the couture wardrobe of Thailand’s original fashion icon, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother.
The museum is located in Ratsadakhorn-bhibhathana Building at the Grand Palace in Bangkok and is putting on several exhibitions in celebration of its 10th anniversary.
Anytime you feel like it
At the end of the day, wearing a full outfit of traditional Thai clothes is just like putting on a ball gown or an elegant suit. Sometimes you just want to look good and you don’t really need a reason (though you may get some questions). Then again, you could mix and match something modern with something Thai for a more casual look.
On March 28th, 2021, Thailand saw its first Surf Skate Festival that invited people to go out into the streets with their skateboards dressed up in Thai traditional garments. Groups of children and young adults rolled up on their boards wearing Thai outfits with sneakers.
There are quite a few events throughout the year where you can put on a Thai outfit if you’re observing social traditions. However, you needn’t feel limited to those. While it’s good to consider cultural appropriation, in Thailand, as long as you are respectful, people will always appreciate it when you incorporate their culture and customs.
So, go out and pick yourself a great chut thai for the next special occasion. Support local textiles, and embrace the elegant Thai look.5 August 2022Arts & Culturehttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9864
- Icon NOW: Thailand Leads the Charge towards APEC Crisis Resilience
Icon NOW: Thailand Leads the Charge towards APEC Crisis Resilience What’s in an icon? As part of Thailand NOW’s mission to share authentic insights into all things Thai, we’re spotlighting iconic individuals who have not only excelled in their respective areas, but influenced the complex tapestry of Thailand as it exists today and, in doing […]
The post Icon NOW: Thailand Leads the Charge towards APEC Crisis Resilience appeared first on Thailand NOW.
Icon NOW: Thailand Leads the Charge towards APEC Crisis Resilience
What’s in an icon? As part of Thailand NOW’s mission to share authentic insights into all things Thai, we’re spotlighting iconic individuals who have not only excelled in their respective areas, but influenced the complex tapestry of Thailand as it exists today and, in doing so, inspire us to be a part of the fabric of Thai society.
In this Icon NOW interview, Cherdchai Chaivaivid talked about his role in driving Thailand as the host economy of the 2022 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and why crisis resilience is more important than ever.
For two years, Cherdchai Chaivaivid, Director-General of the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been a driving force behind Thailand’s APEC host year 2022, from formulating the agenda and theme to organizing in-person meetings for the first time since 2018.
During the same two years, Thailand had been battered by a once-in-a-generation pandemic that caused an unparalleled public health crisis, tanked its tourism-dependent economy, and turned back the clock on sustainable development.
“The theme we came up with was basically set against both the global and regional context at the time,” Cherdchai explains. “Indeed, entering 2022, most economies, if not all, were starting to realize that we might have to live with COVID-19.”
The theme, “Open. Connect. Balance.” responded to many questions that sat at the heart of Thailand and the wider region.
“What would be the best way to move forward with open trade and investment?”
The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) has been the holy grail of APEC economic policy. The idea for a Pacific-wide FTA was first raised by Japanese economist Kiyoshi Kojima in 1966, which paved the way for APEC leaders to allude to the vision of FTAAP in 2004 following suggestions from the APEC Business Advisory Council, who foresaw benefits of such a large FTA.
“What would be the best way to move forward with open trade and investment?” Cherdchai posits. “‘Open’ is very much about getting the FTAAP, or Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, conversation going again.”
As an incubator of high-impact ideas, the regional economic forum will again explore FTAAP for mutual prosperity.
“How to travel safely? That’s the million-dollar question.”
The question on Thailand’s collective mind has been how to get vaccinated people traveling safely again. The global travel and tourism sector lost roughly 4.9 trillion US dollars in 2022 alone. Thailand saw 400,000 visitors in 2021 from 40 million in 2019.
“We were not in a good place by any means,” Cherdchai says candidly. “Getting people to travel again is very high on our agenda.”
“Connect” is about ensuring that future disruptions do not shut down the region the same way that COVID-19 did.
“If we look at the COVID-19 pandemic as a trilogy,” Cherdchai says, “2020 is how to make sure that economies do not close entirely to essential goods, 2021 is how to make sure that there is a balanced distribution of vaccines, and approaching 2022, now that we have vaccinated enough people, let’s get them to travel again. How to travel safely? That’s the million-dollar question.”
APEC decided to establish the Safe Passage Task Force (SPTF) under Thailand’s host year to establish and implement standards for safe passage, including sharing vaccination information and recognizing vaccine certifications. However, as the COVID-19 crisis began to ebb, I had to ask, what if the SPTF wasn’t relevant anymore?
“What if there’s another pandemic around the corner in 2023?” he countered. “What if there’s a major digital disruption across the globe in five years’ time? That is something the Safe Passage Task Force is looking at.”
The doomsday contingency seemed alarmist at the time of the interview, but with the 2022 monkeypox outbreak, Cherdchai’s words are distressingly prophetic.
“How could we, as a community, be more inclusive, more sustainable, more balanced?”
Unfortunately, what is being called the “SDG backslide” is all too real. A 2020 report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “we’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.” More recently, UN-ESCAP Secretary-General Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said in her foreword for the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2022, “with every passing year, the 2030 targets are further out of reach.”
The picture isn’t any rosier in the Land of Smiles. Cherdchai acknowledges that “Thailand is not in a good place,” but as host economy, still needed to ask an important question: “How could we, as a community, be more inclusive, more sustainable, more balanced?”
The Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model (BCG Model) is Thailand’s holistic approach to balanced growth, and according to Cherdchai, it’s proven to stoke some exciting conversations this year.
“The Bio-Circular-Green agenda had never been in the ‘conversation super highway’ of APEC, and until now, there had been no mechanism within APEC structure exclusively,” he explains. “So this could be a good opportunity for APEC to revisit the sustainability conversation through the BCG agenda.”
Cherdchai is hopeful that by introducing this sustainability agenda, some of the ideas will translate into domestic practice.
“It’s all in.”
As Thailand’s APEC Senior Official, Cherdchai must coordinate with all agencies to drive forward Thailand’s priorities and deliverables. In the meeting room and out, he works tirelessly to bridge the different opinions, seeking support from all 21 APEC member economies.
“It’s operational. It’s structure. It’s all in,” he says, and a real game-changer this year has been face-to-face conversations. Thailand has the honor of hosting the first in-person APEC meetings in two years of virtual meetings. When asked how he feels about his role, Cherdchai was quick to deflect the spotlight to his team, with characteristically Thai modesty.
“Indeed on a personal level, it has been an honor for me, and I’m sure the rest of my team feels the same. We are part of a small group driving a regional agenda to make sure Thailand continues to make a good impact across the region.”
Despite the unexpected disruptions from the situation in Ukraine, Thailand presses forward with its APEC host year theme of ”Open. Connect. Balance.”, an agenda that Cherdchai believes the Asia-Pacific region needs now more than ever.
He asserts, “There is no better time to talk about open trade and investment, to make sure that trade and investment continues to benefit economies big or small across the region.”
The last time Thailand served as APEC host economy in 2003, the agenda was eerily similar: a worldwide health and economic crisis due to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic and threats to human security and air travel.
These crises aren’t the exception; they’re a pattern. Whether it’s pandemics or war, APEC economies must create for themselves the mechanisms for crisis resilience and prosperity.
The post Icon NOW: Thailand Leads the Charge towards APEC Crisis Resilience appeared first on Thailand NOW.1 August 2022Current Affairshttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9714
- Better Business: Why Thai Corporations Need BCG
Better Business: Why Thai Corporations Need BCG As the old adage goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.” Unfortunately, humanity has spent much longer than 20 years doing the exact opposite of planting trees, and many of our environmental crises can be traced back to […]
Better Business: Why Thai Corporations Need BCG
As the old adage goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.” Unfortunately, humanity has spent much longer than 20 years doing the exact opposite of planting trees, and many of our environmental crises can be traced back to how we take from and use the planet.
In direct response to the unsustainability of traditional economic practices, Thailand is adopting the Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) concept as a new approach to business and commerce that prioritizes the natural world and aims towards sustainability.
Putting BCG into practice, the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) under the Ministry of Commerce initiated the “Be the ChanGe” campaign, finding and promoting Thai businesses that exemplify the practices and aspirations of the Bio-Circular-Green Economy.
With 50 “BCG Heroes” found, the campaign is now showing companies and consumers across the world that sustainable commerce is possible and that it must start now.
A different, more sustainable business model
In their paper, “Unsustainable business models – Recognizing and resolving institutionalized social and environmental harm,” Nancy Bocken and Samuel W. Short identified nine dominant unsustainable business model archetypes. Their list includes environmental resource exploitation and waste, unhealthy or unsustainable offering, quantity over quality and value, and short-term shareholder rather than stakeholder value.
Finding consonance with the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy of His Majesty King Rama IX, Thailand’s application of the Bio-Circular-Green Economy concept seeks to counteract such models. The BCG concept envisions a new paradigm for the economy that places sustainability and harmony with the environment as its top priority. The three elements are as follows:
- The Bio portion of the concept seeks to have producers rely on sustainable technologies and processes to utilize natural resources.
- The Circular part of the philosophy focuses on renewable products and processes but also extends to upcycling and recycling of products, the reduction of materials and waste overall, increasing the usefulness of products and ultimately achieving an economy that is self-sustaining between production and consumption.
- Under the Green thrust, members of the BCG economy are to be energy-efficient, minimize pollutants, hazardous chemical use, and waste production, practice organic methods of material production, and work hand-in-hand with their surrounding communities to foster sustainability.
It’s important to note that BCG is not about sacrificing business progress for environmentalism, but rather achieving greater success through sustainability, as the “BCG model places emphasis on applying science, technology and innovation to turn Thailand’s comparative advantage in biological and cultural diversity into competitive advantage.”
Being the change
From a call by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit to use BCG to meet global commerce trends, the DITP created “Be the ChanGe.” At the heart of the program is 50 “BCG Heroes”—brands and companies chosen for their incorporation of BCG into their business models.
Brands and companies were evaluated based on their use of waste materials, the value they brought to biomaterials, whether or not their production processes are eco-friendly, and their effective utilization of natural resources.
Thailand’s BCG Heroes span furniture and home decorations, fashion, fabric, and accessories to wellness and lifestyle goods.
Among them are 103PAPER SHOP, which has since its inception sought to combine the beauty of natural materials with waste materials. Collaborating with academics and only practicing handcrafts, the brand manufactures sustainable and modern decorative pieces that also help to remove waste from the environment.
Furniture maker Deesawat has been finding ways to revolutionize how large trees are utilized for over 50 years. The company’s furnishings are made in a zero-waste process that aligns completely with the circular concept of BCG.
In the home décor space, TRC makes long-lasting polished stone pieces. Coupled with their use of debris to make molds, the brand is reducing waste by delivering products with an extensive life.
The first “Hero List” was provided by the Ministry of Commerce to penetrate international markets and establish an image for Thailand as a green economy.
With an aim to have BCG products and services account for 24 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product or THB4.4 trillion within five years, the DITP is working fast to find more BCG Heroes and introduce them to markets that have prioritized environmentalism, such as Europe, Australia, and South Korea.
Local action, global impact
Be the ChanGE is just one example of how BCG is being promoted by the Thai government, which has devoted a THB41 billion budget to actualizing the new approach to economics by 2027 and made it a national agenda.
Thailand is even looking to have BCG adopted beyond its borders, elaborating this aspiration at the First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting of 2022, where it proposed the Bangkok Goals on BCG Economy, founded on an intention to accelerate APEC’s sustainability agenda.
The Kingdom’s implementation of BCG is in line with a global trend to replace unsustainable economics in the hopes of reversing environmental damage.
The European Union’s Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy is seeking to have private investment flows aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy’s main action is directing financing to sustainable innovations and enterprises, effectively transitioning Europe’s economy into one that is sustainable.
Similarly, in 2020, the Japanese government announced its “Green Growth Strategy” aimed at creating a “virtuous cycle of economy and environment.” The notably industrial-based policy has the ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and, much like BCG, is about supporting businesses to adopt environmental methods.
The only way forward
The BCG model is Thailand’s response to global challenges from climate change to income inequality, and the Be the ChanGe program is the nation’s declaration of belief that they can be overcome.
With the fate of the planet and all humanity at stake, the importance of BCG and its counterparts worldwide cannot be understated. Businesses and economies that resist adoption of bio, circular, and green approaches risk their obsolescence in the short term and contributing to global calamity in the longer term.
BCG proposes a way to reverse what could soon become irreversible.22 July 2022Current Affairshttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9643
- Royal Imprint on Thailand’s Christian Community
Royal Imprint on Thailand’s Christian Community On November 21st, 2019, tens of thousands of Catholics gathered at Supachalasai National Stadium to welcome Pope Francis during his historical visit to Thailand. Excitement and joy filled the air as the large crowd patiently waited to welcome their Pope and join in the papal mass. For the younger […]
Royal Imprint on Thailand’s Christian Community
On November 21st, 2019, tens of thousands of Catholics gathered at Supachalasai National Stadium to welcome Pope Francis during his historical visit to Thailand. Excitement and joy filled the air as the large crowd patiently waited to welcome their Pope and join in the papal mass. For the younger generation, it was the first time they had ever seen any pope in person since the nation’s first ever apostolic visit took place thirty-five years ago.
In 1984, upon his arrival in Thailand, Pope John Paul II knelt down as he disembarked from the aircraft and kissed the ground, a gesture expressing humility, love and respect for the country and its people. Then His Majesty, the present King, the then Crown Prince, welcomed the Pope and accompanied him to an audience with the then King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, the present Queen Mother. The warmth that radiated from the photograph capturing Their Majesties’ greeting Pope John Paul II became an image firmly imprinted in the memories of Catholics and non-Catholics alike in Thailand.
Almost four decades later, the meeting between the present King and Queen and Pope Francis echoes not only the close bond of friendship cultivated over centuries between Thailand and the Vatican, but also speaks volumes about the monarch’s pivotal role as a unifying force and an upholder of all religions in the promotion of interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence in Thai society.
In order to better understand the present, it is vital to revisit the past. Historical evidence shows that Roman Catholicism was introduced to Thailand, formerly known as Siam, by Portuguese traders and missionaries in the mid-1500s and gained a firm foothold during the reign of King Narai of Ayutthaya. Being a professed Buddhist did not deter the benevolent ruler from giving equal attention and importance to the practice of all faiths on Thai soil.
As such, Catholic missionaries were allowed to practice and preach their faith in a predominantly Buddhist kingdom. In return, they shared knowledge of sciences, mathematics, art and languages that supported the nation’s advancement. Moreover, those seeking refuge from religious persecution in their homeland were granted permission to settle in the realm. Plots of land were royally bestowed to build places of worship, schools and healthcare facilities. Since then, close-knit Catholic communities have formed and flourished, with churches at the center of their social, educational and religious lives. Nowadays there are about 380,000 Catholics in Thailand, out of a population of 66 million.
The monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty and members of the royal family have continuously supported Catholics throughout the years. They exerted efforts beyond the call of duty and accorded personal attention to the Thai-Catholic community, from presiding over religious ceremonies to visiting churches and providing financial donations to academic institutions and hospitals. Such patronage has been firmly based on the shared conviction of the monarchy and the Christian church to lift the well-being of the people.
Recognizing that the Christian churches can help fill the gaps in social welfare development, successive Thai sovereigns have continuously assisted various Christian charitable activities that can improve the livelihood of all Thais. When King Mongkut, the current King’s great, great grandfather, was a monk before acceding to the throne, he developed a personal friendship with the Apostolic Vicar of Eastern Siam, Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix. The royal monk taught Thai and Pali languages to the Monsignor while the latter taught English and Latin in return. This acquired proficiency in English certainly enabled King Mongkut to have access to modern knowledge that was essential for national development at that time.
After his enthronement, King Mongkut forged ties with the Holy See by sending a royal letter to Pope Pius IX. His son, King Chulalongkorn, was the first monarch from a non-Christian kingdom to visit the Vatican in 1897 where he met with Pope Leo XIII.
The promotion of education in the provinces was among the priorities of King Vajiravudh, a shared goal with the Christian missionary work of the early 20th century. In 1906, while still the Crown Prince, he visited the Chiang Mai Boys’ School, which was established by the American Presbyterian Mission. He graciously presided over the cornerstone laying ceremony of the new building and renamed the school “The Prince Royal’s College.” His only child, Princess Bejaratana, took the school under her patronage in 1986. Today the school remains a symbol of pioneering missionary work in northern Thailand.
During his seven-decade reign, beginning in 1946, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a brilliant visionary, indelibly steered the course of the country’s development and so developed the people’s livelihoods. On several occasions, he granted funds for charitable activities and the construction of Christian hospital buildings, such as the Bangkok Christian Hospital in Bangkok and the McCormick Hospital in Chiang Mai.
Following in the footsteps of his father, His Majesty the King, Rama X, solemnly pledged to carry on these royal initiatives and projects, thus helping to ameliorate their impact for the good of the people. So the noble undertakings and selflessness of Thai royalty have retained a special place in the hearts of many Christians, continuing to inspire charitable work, such as providing homes for homeless children and underprivileged students with opportunities in education and vocational training, enabling them to be self-reliant.
The special bonds between the monarchy and all religious communities in Thailand were exemplified by the royal audience of His Majesty the King during the coronation ceremony in 2019. On May 6th that year, representatives of the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Protestant churches, together with the Sheikhul Islam of Thailand and the Sikh community were among those who had the privilege to present their sincere greetings in person to the new monarch before he delivered his first royal address to the people after his coronation.
Thailand would not be where it is today if the monarchy did not serve as a pillar of strength and a guiding light, leading by example and wielding incomparable moral authority. The generosity, thoughtfulness and embracing of diversity extended from the sovereign have shaped the nation and countless lives. Following their monarchs, Thais have adopted a mentality of openness and mindfulness of the differences among faiths and religions, and most importantly, a profound respect for those differences. The actions of the monarchy have indeed forged connections, furthered interreligious understanding and demonstrated that, regardless of what faith we hold, we are bound together by goodwill and shared values of kindness and respect.
H.E. Francis Xavier Cardinal Kriengsak Kovithavanij received his Masters Degree, the Licentiate of Spirituality from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He was consecrated as Bishop of Nakhon Sawan on June 2nd, 2007 and installed as Archbishop of Bangkok on August 16th, 2009. His positions at the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Thailand from 2009 to the present include President of the Episcopal Commissions for Pastoral Care of the Christians and President of the Catholic Commissions for Liturgy. In addition, Cardinal Kriengsak is a member of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.18 July 2022Country Factshttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9385
- The Real Housecats of Siam: Wichien Maat
The Real Housecats of Siam: Wichien Maat From the Khao Manee granting safe travels to merchants, the Supalak elevating its owners to greater status, or the Si Sawat blessing newlyweds, Thailand has long seen mystical properties in its domestic cat breeds, but none are held in as high regard as the original Siamese Cat: the […]
The Real Housecats of Siam: Wichien Maat
From the Khao Manee granting safe travels to merchants, the Supalak elevating its owners to greater status, or the Si Sawat blessing newlyweds, Thailand has long seen mystical properties in its domestic cat breeds, but none are held in as high regard as the original Siamese Cat: the Wichien Maat.
For more than 700 years, the Wichien Maat has been kept in royal Thai courts, featured in sacred ceremonies, and even presented as diplomatic gifts, granting the breed a significant place in the history and traditions of Thailand founded on the belief that these regal shorthairs bring with them great fortune, prosperity, and stature.
Let’s dive into the characteristics of the regal Wichien Maat, the Thai beliefs surrounding the breed, and how it was cat-apulted into the mainstream.
Famed Wichien Maat breeder and enthusiast Preecha Vadhana explains that the ancient Thai cat was exalted by the early Siamese for exhibiting a combination of preferred traits, deeming it auspicious.
“The division between auspicious and inauspicious cats was based on the belief held among ancient people that certain characteristics would bring fortune. The Supalak cat was a good choice for civil servants, while merchants would be better with the Wichien Maat… The characteristics of each of these types support different careers.”
Preecha Vadhana, founder of the Siamese Cat Bang Rak cattery
The features that make the Wichien Maat so valued include its distinct point coloration—darker shades of fur appearing on its face and extremities—triangular face, and its pale coat, from which its name, translating to “Moon Diamond,” is derived.
Thailand’s International Maew Boran Association writes that “in the older manuscripts… the cat with eight points is always named Maew Kaew, or ‘Jewel Cat’… Wichien Maat appears in the 1957 cremation volume for Somdet Phra Puttajan.”
The name change appears to coincide with the breed’s refinement over time, as its most desired features were accentuated over generations to concentrate the cat’s perceived metaphysical properties. The Cat Fanciers’ Association notes that Felis silvestris catus, in its original form, was “more compact… supple, with an apple-shaped head and short nose.”
Today, the carefully bred Wichien Maat has a “delicate pointed face, attenuated and delicate bone structure, lean musculature, and whippy tail.” They can range from 10–12 inches (25–30 cm) in height and 2.5–6 kg in weight.
Among cat-lovers, the breed is also coveted for its large almond-shaped eyes, which often come in a piercing blue, tiger-like tail, and most importantly, its friendly and affectionate temperament. So affable is this feline species, it’s most often compared to the Golden Retriever dog breed and has even been known to engage in games of fetch.
The earliest documentation of the Wichien Maat and the beliefs surrounding it are found in the Tamra Maew or “Cat Poems.” The Tamra Maew are a series of manuscripts compiled during the reign of King Rama IV from 1851–1868 with sources dating to before the Ayutthaya War of 1765.
The Tamra Maew names Wichien Maat cats among 22 other breeds divided between auspicious or inauspicious. The beliefs documented in the manuscripts were so pervasive that only five of the feline types listed still remain today, with the rest bred out of existence.
The Wichien Maat is considered so valuable that according to most accounts, they were reserved exclusively for the royal palace up until the Ayutthaya era. The felicitous felines were kept by Siamese royal households to bolster their fortunes and even put to guarding temples—the most sacred of sites in Thai culture.
After the Ayutthaya era, however, the Wichien Maat was given a new noble duty, serving as diplomatic gifts presented by Thailand’s monarchs.
This practice was most prominent during the reign of King Rama V, who bestowed a pair of the cats upon French diplomat August Pavie in 1885. In 1904, during a visit to the Russian Empire, the Thai monarch presented one of his Royal Siamese cats as a gift to the daughter of Emperor Nicholas II.
More famously, King Rama V in 1884 gifted Pho and Mia to British Consul-General to Thailand Owen Gould, who saw the two become a popular display in the Crystal Palace Cat Show.
The first Wichien Maat on record to be permitted to leave the Kingdom, however, was simply named “Siam” and was delivered by U.S. Consul to Bangkok David Stickles to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes’s wife Lucy in the late 1870s in acknowledgement of the First Lady’s adoration for cats. In his accompanying letter, the diplomat noted that it was “the first attempt ever made to send a Siamese cat to America.
”These high-profile bestowments spread the image of the Wichien Maat as aristocratic and prized, driving its adoption internationally. By the middle of the 20th century, the Wichien Maat, referred to as the Siamese cat, had entered into popular culture, appearing in films such as Lady and the Tramp in 1955, The Incredible Journey in 1963, and as the titular feline of 1965’s That Darn Cat!
It should be noted here, that the Wichien Maat was so adored after being introduced to the West that avid breeders eventually brought about a distinct iteration, now referred to as the modern-style Siamese breed.
Cinema icon Elizabeth Taylor notably gifted fellow star James Dean a Siamese cat on the set of the film Giant in 1955, inducting him into a club of celebrities who favored the breed that includes Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon.
Cat in the court
While the Wichien Maat’s presence globally has been a colorful tale of diplomacy and glamor, it cannot be understated how closely tied to the royal institution they remain at home.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great famously cherished a Wichien Maat cat named Tito while residing at Villa Vadhana in Lausanne, Switzerland. The royal pet was named after Yugolsavian president Josip Broz Tito, the basis for the character of “Nai In” in Nai In Phu Pid Thong Lang Phra, a literary work by King Rama IX based on the book A Man Called Intrepid.
The most recent example of how the Wichien Maat holds great symbolic significance in Thailand however took place in 2019, at the Assumption of the Residence ceremony carried out as part of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation.
Heralding the King taking up residence at the Grand Palace, the rite featured a Wilarn or ceremonial cat. According to the Ministry of Culture, the inclusion harkens back to an ancient Thai tradition of having a cat present during housewarming events, as they are seen as possessing the ability to always return home, to ward off evil, and to bring about blessings to a household.
For the royal proceeding, a Wichien Maat carefully selected for its pure coat color was carried into the palace at an auspicious time and placed on a mattress. The appointed cat bearer then performed a prayer, bidding happiness and abundant fortune for the occupant of the residence.
A good point
For more than seven centuries, the Wichien Maat has lived up to belief in its auspiciousness, uplifting the spirits of Thais with its presence in royal traditions, garnering international appreciation, and simply being a cherished companion. Even looking to the future, it would appear that the Wichien Maat’s enchantment remains strong.
“These cats are very much our national treasures,” said Preecha, who has devoted the Siamese Cat Bang Rak cattery to their preservation alongside other revered Thai breeds.
Kasetsart University lecturer Asst. Prof. Dr. Janjira Phavaphutanon has similarly been moved to maintain the Wichien Maat, viewing them as an integral part of feline history as the originator of other popular breeds, such as the Himalayan Cat and Persian Cat.
Whether science or supernatural, all evidence points to the Wichien Maat being a “jewel” of a cat.15 July 2022Arts & Culturehttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9368
- Former Wedding Organizer Builds Green Energy Farm
Former Wedding Organizer Builds Green Energy In Klong Sam Wa District sits Res-Q Farm: a 3.5-acre property that runs on 100% green energy, is 100% organic, and boasts a wide variety of farming techniques to grow fruits, flowers, and vegetables which are served in a café on site. But why would a former wedding organizer […]
Former Wedding Organizer Builds Green Energy
In Klong Sam Wa District sits Res-Q Farm: a 3.5-acre property that runs on 100% green energy, is 100% organic, and boasts a wide variety of farming techniques to grow fruits, flowers, and vegetables which are served in a café on site.
But why would a former wedding organizer who hates vegetables go to all the trouble of making this happen? I visited the farm to learn about how this project came to be and what kinds of hurdles it needed to overcome.
This farm is the brainchild of Wira Sornsadang, a former wedding organizer to the stars. He began the farm soon after he retired for two simple reasons: his wife wanted a farm, and he loves his wife.
However, Wira had no interest in just running a normal farm. This is a man who enjoys a good challenge. He wanted to grow a bit of everything under difficult conditions.
It was also important to him that this farm be entirely sustainable. Five years ago, he rented a plot of land near his house and got to work. Of course, this plot happened to be a swamp that everyone said you couldn’t grow anything out of. That simply lit a fire under Wira.
The Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy is a very important concept in this day and age. Wira took this to heart and went the extra mile in the design of the farm.
One of the first things you’ll notice upon visiting Res-Q Farm is that it is surrounded by pine trees. These trees grow very quickly and are quite dense making them very effective wind blocks. This is important in a farm that uses natural evaporation from water on the farm buildings to cool everything down.
The trees have an additional benefit. Pine needles are a great natural barrier against weeds as they are very acidic and coat the ground at the base of the trees, preventing other plants from growing and invading the farm. When the pine needles build up, Wira simply collects and burns them. Burned pine needles lose their acidity and are a great ingredient for revitalizing ponds. On top of all of this, the trees only cost three baht each when Wira bought them.
Learn more: The BCG Impact on Thailand’s Food Industry
Nearly all of the buildings on site are constructed out of recycled waste products and renewable material. Old windows and tables are now walls. Roofs are often thatched using leaves. The stage is built out of the remains of various events. Some of the greenhouses were once wedding tents. What initially appears to be metal columns are actually just painted bamboo poles. Truly, the entire property has ingenuity and creativity on display at every turn.
The property has a few animals as well. Beehives provide a consistent supply of honey, and two spoiled horses wander around providing a consistent demand for snacks and attention.
Growing things organically can often be easier said than done. One of the biggest challenges is insects. How do you prevent insects from eating all your hard grown crops without using insecticide?
Res-Q Farm has a number of interesting strategies to handle this very issue. Many of the fruits and vegetables grown on the farm are done so in greenhouses. The ponds around the property are all full of koi fish and frogs who like to eat insects. There are even certain trees grown near the back of the property that serve as insect bait. Other plants grown on the farm like herbs and flowers aren’t eaten by insects so can simply be grown out in the open.
A zero-baht power bill
While yes, these days you can simply buy a bunch of solar panels and install them, that in and of itself has a cost. Res-Q Farm takes this concept one step further.
How can you reduce the energy cost of the farm in order to use the minimum amount of solar panels? Solar panels, while green, do require a fair amount of resources to build and a fair amount of money to buy (although their cost is becoming significantly cheaper).
Wira begins with the design of the solar panels themselves. Most solar panel setups require a controller and a battery, which often make up half of the overall cost. Wira does away with these in favor of running the solar panels to water pumps directly. The pumps do one thing: move water from low elevation to high elevation. The water is then released into the hydroponic greenhouses to feed the plants, and over the roofs of the buildings to naturally cool them down through evaporation.
Storing the water this way means it can be released from the reservoir even when there is no sun. In fact, you can take this one step further and have the water spin a generator on its way down, just like in a hydroelectric dam.
Cooling buildings through evaporation is a concept that has been around in Thailand for a long time. With the advent of air conditioners, we often forget that building houses near or above water has the added benefit of cooling them down significantly.
Another area where Wira has used natural energy is in his drying house. Greenhouses get rather hot. They are quite good at absorbing heat and keeping it. In cold countries, this is great because it allows people to grow things out of season. In hot countries, this poses a challenge. Unless they are cooled down, many greenhouses are too hot to grow plants.
Wira uses this fact and dials it up by building a drying house that gets exceedingly hot on purpose. Here, he brings all of the edible flowers and teas to dry on trays.
Farm to table
As Res-Q Farm began to take shape, people began to take notice. Visitors would show up to the property asking to take a look. Wira began running free tours, showcasing his various strategies and providing advice to anyone who was interested. Inevitably, some of these visitors would get hungry.
Wira came up with another solution. Most of the food products we consume require a fair amount of transportation before they reach our table. By opening up the Res-Q Cafe on site, all the produce grown on the property can simply be brought over by hand, eliminating the need for transportation entirely.
The hydroponic greenhouses grow lettuce in 45 days. There are 45 rows. Each row provides just enough for the café each day. Once the supply is finished the item is no longer served for the rest of the day. This avoids the need for stockpiling and ensures that every dish is as fresh as possible.
The food served at the café is divine. From edible flower salads to coal-fired pizzas to kale smoothies with honey, all the dishes incorporate items grown on the property in some way.
Reasons to visit
Today, Wira still offers up his knowledge to all visitors for free. He hopes to spread what he has learned and encourage the next generation to incorporate sustainable ideas that can make farming more profitable and fun.
The farm itself is a great place to visit, both if you’re looking to gain some insight into new techniques, or if you simply want to explore the property and try some of the delicious food.
Res-Q Farm is one of those special places that can truly inspire you. I can’t recommend it enough.8 July 2022Life & Societyhttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9325
- The Stock Exchange of Thailand Group: a one-stop shop for traditional and digital assets
The Stock Exchange of Thailand Group: a one-stop shop for traditional and digital assets As digital assets gain more acceptance among investors, their fragmented nature as seen by thousands of tokens trading across hundreds of exchanges is the big pain point for investors. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) sets sight on leveraging our existing […]
The post The Stock Exchange of Thailand Group: a one-stop shop for traditional and digital assets appeared first on Thailand NOW.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand Group: a one-stop shop for traditional and digital assets
As digital assets gain more acceptance among investors, their fragmented nature as seen by thousands of tokens trading across hundreds of exchanges is the big pain point for investors.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) sets sight on leveraging our existing open platform ecosystem to fill the gap and offer users a seamless experience throughout the asset trade lifecycle starting from token issuance, trading, and clearing to wallet services, covering both traditional and digital assets..
SET has pioneered an open platform for the traditional Thai capital market for years, enabling partners including securities and derivatives brokerage houses, and investment management companies to reach more customers while investors can trade or use a wide range of securities and mutual fund products, and services across our different stakeholders. This partnership collaboration leads to a significant increase in number of users over time, given convenient access and the ease of use that cater to their investment needs.
In addition, SET plans ahead to provide an application that will provide services on both traditional and digital asset markets. This integration of the open-source platform will bridge the gap between the traditional and digital asset market spaces and will utilize the services provided by the intermediaries in SET’s ecosystem in accordance with SET’s commitment to growing together. Fund raisers and investors will be able to access multiple exchanges, multiple wallet service providers and relevant capital market service providers to match their preferences.
SET in digital asset world
In SET’s view, traditional and digital asset stock exchanges will grow together, due to their differentiating strengths of each market that can serve diverse needs of investors and business operators, including risk profiles of investors.
The major target group of digital assets will be the younger generations and issuers who want to raise funds to invest in high-risk with expected high-return businesses or niche investments that will match the preference of investors who would like to diversify their portfolio into new asset classes.
Aside from offering the open ecosystem for the traditional asset market, the SET group has incorporated Thai Digital Assets Exchange (TDX) to be a digital asset exchange that will become a part in the current network of stakeholders. TDX received digital asset exchange license granted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in March this year and expected to commence operations in the third quarter of 2022 to allow investors to trade tokenized assets, particularly utility and investment tokens.
In summary, the SET Group with open platform will deliver seamless investment experience for both traditional and digital assets.
The post The Stock Exchange of Thailand Group: a one-stop shop for traditional and digital assets appeared first on Thailand NOW.8 July 2022Business & Investmenthttps://www.thailandnow.in.th/?p=9308