When ‘Helmeted’ doesn’t mean secure

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Almost extinct in Indonesia and Malaysia, the Helmeted Hornbill is still thriving in Thailand’s south, but for how long?

THE ICONIC helmeted hornbill (rhinoplax vigil), one of the most gigantic and spectacular of Asia’s 30 species of hornbills, is in grave danger of extinction according to BirdLife International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who upgraded its threat status to critically endangered last November.

All hornbills are charismatic, mainly frugivorous (fruit-eating) forest birds of tropical forests, who take their name from the large ornamental casques on their bills, which differ in size and shape among species. The helmeted hornbill (known as Nok Chon Hin in Thai) is special, though, because unlike the other hornbills, the casque is not hollow but solid and bony.

Casques of the helmeted hornbill have long been sought after by Chinese craftsmen, who carve this so-called “hornbill ivory” or “red ivory” into elaborate ornaments and snuff-boxes. Even as long as 2,000 years ago native peoples of Borneo were already fashioning helmeted hornbill casques into ear-pendants and toggles. But Japan and China are the major consumers of helmeted hornbills casques, demand for which has suddenly and inexplicably escalated, threatening the future of this unique species.

“In 2013 about 500 adult helmeted hornbills were killed each month, or some 6,000 birds in one year, and that was only in West Kalimantan,” laments Yokyok Hadiprakarsa of the Indonesian Hornbill Conservation Society.


According to Hadiprakarsa, who also works with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in West Kalimantan, and who has interviewed many villagers, foresters and officials, only 1,111 helmeted hornbill heads were confiscated by the Indonesian authorities between 2012-2014, and eight Chinese traders, along with two Indonesian citizens, arrested.

The helmeted hornbill heads were being smuggled to major ports in Sumatra, Java and onwards to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Such a high level of exploitation is clearly unsustainable and, if left unchecked, will quickly drive remaining helmeted hornbill populations to extinction.

Dr Nigel J Collar of BirdLife International is an expert on these larger hornbills, noting that they have specific nesting requirements, choosing the largest living trees with nest holes topped with a perch for the male to use while provisioning the female.

During the breeding cycle, the female remains incarcerated in the nest cavity for 160 days, when both she and the nestling are dependent solely on food delivered by the male. Hunting during the breeding season therefore has an especially severe impact, causing the death of the nestling and compromising the survival of the female too.

Rates of forest loss in the Sundaic lowlands of Malaysia and Indonesia remain extremely high, owing partly to the escalation of illegal logging and conversion of forest land to rubber and oil-palm. Such habitat loss has already caused a massive reduction in hornbill numbers. Even inside protected areas, the best remaining stands of valuable timber may be targeted for logging.

Forest fires have also had a damaging effect.The helmeted hornbill has apparently almost disappeared from habitats where it was previously abundant in Sumatra, Indonesia, and is equally threatened in both the Indonesian and Malaysian parts of Borneo. It is still widespread in protected areas in Thailand’s southern provinces, which together support six of the country’s 13 species including the helmeted hornbill.

But even here populations of the helmeted hornbill are small and fragmented as so little of their ancestral forest habitat remains as national park and wildlife sanctuary, and all hornbills remain vulnerable to hunting, and theft of chicks for the illegal pet trade.

The Hornbill Research Foundation of Mahidol University, Thailand, led by Prof Pilai Poonswad and her team, has done much to raise the profile of hornbills in this country, conducting long-term term ecological studies

while monitoring populations of all hornbills in Thailand since 1978.

The foundation has studied the breeding ecology of the helmeted hornbill at Budo-Sungai Padi National Park and worked with villagers in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat to organise a Hornbill Family Adoption Programme, under which for US$150 (Bt5,250) per year the same villagers who formerly collected hornbill chicks are employed instead as nest-guardians.

Records sent to Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST), the Thai partner of BirdLife International, by birdwatchers over the past few decades show that helmeted hornbills survive today only in the largest areas already protected as National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries.

It will take all the resources of the government’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation (DNP) to keep these safe from poachers. A Helmeted Hornbill Task Force established through international cooperation among SE Asian BirdLife Partners – BCST-Birdlife Thailand; the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association of Myanmar; the Malaysian Nature Society, Nature Society (Singapore) and Burung Indonesia – to alert, and provide technical support for, government agencies in their respective countries could help coordinate action to safeguard helmeted hornbill.

Because of its relatively advanced capacity and knowledge, and good public awareness, Thailand is perhaps well placed to lead the way with its own a national action plan for the helmeted hornbill. The key government agencies, besides DNP, include the Customs Department, the Thai secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep).

With timely and appropriate action, there is every hope that Thai populations of the helmeted hornbill in southern Thailand will not follow the Gurneys Pitta into extinction, but will be sustained, and even recover, as have populations of some other endangered vertebrates, such as gaur and banteng in a few, favoured protected areas of the western forest complex.


– The Helmeted hornbill is among the largest of Asian hornbills, about 110-120 cm long with a wingspan up to 2 metres Its plumage is patterned blackish- brown and white, with elongate white central tail feathers bearing a black band. The skin of the bare neck is red in the male, and pale turquoise in the female Its distinctive high red casque, yellow at the front and weighing about 300g, is the “helmet” of the common name.

– Helmeted hornbills are confined to lowland forests, from southern Myanmar, southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia – the Sunda Region. They inhabit mature evergreen lowland forest, and though recorded up to 1,500 metres above sea level, are mostly confined to lower elevations.

– The call of helmeted hornbill is utterly unique -once heard never forgotten. It is a series of loud, intermittent barbet-like hoots, sometimes double-toned and over two dozen in number, which gradually accelerates to culminate in a cackle reminiscent of laughter. Its unique casque is used in rarely seen aerial jousts in which two male birds fly from a treetop in opposite directions, circle round and swoop at each other, cracking their casques together in mid-air in a spectacular contest for supremacy.

– Hornbills are important bio-indicators of good quality forest and, indeed, help maintain plant diversity and forest cover through their role as seed dispersers. They are the largest fruit-eating birds in the forest canopy, consuming the fruits of more than 200 tree species, including not only figs but lipid-rich fruits, regurgitating and defecating their seeds far and wide, at great distances from the parent tree. Their role in maintaining the forest ecosystem is so immense that they are regarded as farmers of the forest and one hornbill may plant more than 500,000 trees in its lifetime. They are also predators of small animals including squirrels, snakes, and other birds including even the chicks of their own or other hornbill species, and can live more than 30 years.

Growing up in Switzerland

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



A new TV documentary looks at the childhood of His Majesty the King to mark the 70th anniversary of his accession to the throne

FOR THE FIRST TIME in history, the fascinating childhood years in Switzerland of His Majesty the King are coming to the small screen in a documentary series, “Paendin Wai Yao”, that premieres tonight at 8 on Channel TNN 24.

Two years in the making, it marks the 70th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne.


“Chalermpol Thanchitt, former Thai ambassador to Switzerland, and Phithak Chaiboon, founder of the firm Thai Documentary, came up with the idea for the series two years ago and put me in charge of writing the script and collecting historical facts,” says Sukanya Chaipasi. “The documentary pays homage to His Majesty through the story of his young years and the influence this had on his duties later in life.”

Sukanya and her production team spent a month in Switzerland, visiting several towns and places related to the royal family and speaking to those who had been associated with the King in some way.

“It was a challenging task,” says the scriptwriter, who is also the author of a book about the coup d’etat of 1932, which occurred while the King was at the family’s summer home in Hua Hin. “The change from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy resulted in some members of the royal family leaving Thailand for Lausanne in Switzerland,” she says.

The nine-part series begins with “Pathombot Soo Muang Lausanne”, essentially an introduction to Lausanne, which is the second-largest city on Lake Geneva and home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters as well as the Olympic Museum and Archives.

“It presents the story of Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkhla, who was the father of Kings Ananda Mahidol [Rama VIII] and Bhumibol Adulyadej [Rama IX] and is regarded as the father of modern medicine and public health.

“The Prince Father was invited by Prince Rangsit Prayurasakdi, later Prince of Chainat, to have a look around his Siriraj Hospital before deciding to study public health at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his earlier travels in Europe, he had made a stop in Genoa, a port city and capital of the Liguria region in northwest Italy, which was linked by train to Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne.

“After Prince Mahidol married Sangwan Talaphat in 1920, they went together to America but stopped over at the Hotel du Boulevard in Lausanne,” Sukanya explains.

The second episode “Flat No 16 and Villa Wattana in Lausanne”, traces the early days of Prince Mahidol and his young family in Switzerland and their life in that three-bedroom flat. “When Ananda – who was nine at the time – was recognised as king after King Prajadhipok’s abdication in 1935, they moved to a bigger house called Villa Wattana.”

In Part 3, “Education and Rearing”, the focus is on Bhumibol”s studies. Sukanya found historical evidence in the form of a handwritten application covering several subjects and fees completed by the King, who listed himself as “Monsieur Bhumibol Adulyadej”.

In the segment called “Summer Camp”, the documentary looks at how the King first learned about nature and how this later inspired him set up the royal irrigation department, while “Rudoo Nao Kap Cheewit Bon Phukhao” shows the royal brothers having fun on skis.

“King Ananda Mahidol had an allergy and a doctor suggested that the pure mountain air could help him breathe easier. Both had skied since they were young and carried their skis themselves. There were no ski lifts in those days,” Sukanya says.

“Ngarn Silapa Pradit Soo Karn Tham Ngarn” reflects on King Bhumibol’s photography and carpentry skills.

“The King is also a great composer,” says Sukanya. “Professor Rapee Sagarik, who was a member of the band Aor Sor Wan Suk, says the King was always very happy when he was playing music.

“During his honeymoon at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin, the King ordered the band to play music all night long and royal guards danced along until the morning.”

“Phra Sahai”, the seventh part, presents a friend of the King who agreed to meet with Sukanya, while “Lysandre C Seraidaris” features the youngest son of Cleon C Seraidaris, a lawyer who served as private tutor to King Ananda and Prince Bhumibol in Switzerland.

The series closes with “Relations between Thailand and Switzerland”, which shows how the Royal Family has cemented ties with the alpine country over |the years.

n “Paendin Wai Yao” will|air every Thursday at 8pm |on TNN 24 (TrueVisions Channel 16 and 777), on True4U (TrueVisions Channel 24).


Planting seeds at the palace

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



How His Majesty the King turned his residences into sustainable agricultural demonstration projects

THE FIRST RAYS of dawn have yet to appear in the skies over Dusit Palace and already the team at Royal Chitralada Dairy Farm is hard at work, transporting the fresh milk from the farm’s own cows to an adjacent plant where it will be pasteurised and put into cartons.

It’s a routine that has been in place since 1962 when His Majesty the King was presented with a few head of cattle. Always interested in agriculture and agricultural industries, the King invested his personal funds into establishing a dairy herd of some 40 cows for demonstration purposes.

Today, the herd produces between 200 and 300 litres of milk a day and while some of the milk and milk products are sold to create a revolving fund, much of it is delivered to schools where it nourishes thousands of young children.

Throughout 70 years of his reign, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has dedicated his efforts to accumulating knowledge, committing personal resources to advance the wellbeing of the people of Thailand.


The transformation of His Majesty’s private residence Chitralada Villa, which is part of Dusit Palace, into experimental plots began in 1961 and has helped the King to find solutions to a variety of agricultural problems affecting farmers.

A recent talk organised by the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary and the Pid Thong Lang Phra Foundation at Sala Mahamongkol of Chitralada Villa focused on His Majesty’s lifelong journey to help his subjects develop the skills and know-how to combat health problems and poverty, and become self-reliant.

“As a building, His Majesty’s home is smaller than those of many of our richest men,” says Thanpuying Putrie Viravaidya, His Majesty’s deputy’s principal private secretary.

“Chitralada Villa has just two floors and the main hall is where His Majesty welcomes guests and sometime dines. Otherwise, there are just bedrooms and a study like in any regular house. The compound of the palace is large and houses many departments that work for the King including the royal kitchen, the royal pages, the royal security guards and the royal physicians. Their Majesties used to run at least three kilometres around Dusit Dalai pavilion in the grounds when they were on their own. His Majesty always said he had to be strong in order to help others.

“Local folk knew when Their Majesties the King and Queen would visit their palaces upcountry. I remember people queuing up in front of the palace from very early morning to see the doctors. When I asked them why they didn’t go to the nearby hospitals, they told me they wanted the medicinal envelope that featured the royal emblem,” she says.

“The homes of His Majesty here at the Chitralada Villa, as well as at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin, Bhuping Palace in Chiang Mai, Thaksin Ratchaniwet Palace in Narathiwat and Phu Phan Palace in Sakhon Nakon all house development projects designed to help the people,” she continues.

Each May at the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, the rice seeds cultivated on experimental plots at the Royal Chitralada Projects are brought to Sanam Luang and sown into a furrow ploughed by two oxen hitched to a wooden plough. Farmers will go to great lengths to obtain samples of these rice seeds, which they consider the best available. Right now 49 different varieties of rice are being grown for experimental purposes.

Chitralada Villa is currently home to 36 ongoing projects, both non-commercial (geared towards long-term improvements) and semi-commercial. All surplus funds from sales are ploughed into further development.

In addition to the agricultural experimental plots and milk production, the Royal Chitralada Project team carries out energy conservation, alternative fuel production and fish farming projects. The most spectacular of the projects is the Demonstration Forest project, which His Majesty set up to study tree species after observing a large number of dipterocarp trees being felled for timber. Aware of the need to preserve a ecological rainforest, the King planted dipterocarp seeds at Klai Kangwon Palace and later had saplings transferred to Chitralada Villa as well as other species from different parts of the country. In 2011, this demonstration forest with more than 1,000 saplings marked 55 years as a thriving forest with its own localised climate that induces rainfall over the Villa.

A fundamental part of His Majesty the King’s vision was for each of the royal development study centres (RDSCs) to become “models of success” where farmers and others could learn through example and guidance.

Officials who have served His Majesty on different occasions proudly shared their memories during the talk.

Songsak Wongpumiwat, chairman of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission, recalls the numerous visits by the King while he was working for the Royal Initiative Project at Nong Phlap sub-district, Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

“The area was suffering from extreme drought and every time we saw clouds of dust rising through the air, we knew right away it was a big caravan of vehicles and His Majesty was coming to inspect the soil survey,” he says.

In the north, a large number of Royal Initiative Projects have been introduced, one of them focusing on nature’s own defensive barrier to soil erosion – vetiver grass.

“His Majesty recommended to his mother, Her Royal Highness Princess Mother, that she cultivate vetiver grass to conserve soil and thereby water on the steep slopes of Doi Tung, Chiang Rai province, Later, when the Royal Family was together, the Princess Mother said her vetiver grass grew better than that of the King, developing root more than three-metres long in just nine months. The trick, she noted, was to plant the grass with a tilt of three degrees,” says forestry specialist Pinit Sornlamp.

Another useful royal initiative in the north, the Huai Hong Khrai RDSC was established in Chiang Mai‘s Doi Saket district in 1982 at the King’s initiative as a result of droughts and forest fires caused by extensive forest poaching.

“His Majesty told me that that I should look forward not just five years but 50 years,” Viriya Chuaybamrung, a specialist in natural resources and the environment, recalls.

He told me, ‘when the land leeches come, you will know your work has succeeded’. Now 33 years later, we have land leeches. I’m so proud.”

Chaiwat Sitthibus, a land development specialist, recalls the visits made by His Majesty to Thaksin Ratchaniwet Palace in Narathiwat between 1973 and 1996.

“His Majesty would stay at his southern palace for one to two months. One rainy day, without any advance notice, he visited Pikun Thong RDSC, which was in charge of the ‘Klaeng Din’ project to study the naturally occurring process of acidification caused by deep-layers of pyrite in peat swamps. I’m a specialist in soil yet I had never thought of monitoring the research during the rain before. It made a lot of sense. His Majesty wanted to see how vetiver grass works in the rain,” says Chaiwat.

Today, His Majesty’s selfless efforts can be measured in more than 4,000 royal development projects undertaken for the benefit and happiness of the Thai people.

“I have been serving His Majesty for more than four decades. I will turn 75 soon. His Majesty used to say that his work would never come to an end, that it was a work in progress. The more the development, the more benefit and the greater the sustainability for the future. You do what you can, for the individual, family, society and the nation. With a good foundation, the prosperity from development will benefit future generations and we should do it with unity and generosity,” Thanpuying Putrie says.


Living it up in woodland hill

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Hollywood’s golden age alive and kicking at retirement home

JOHNNY WEISSMULLER |was said to walk the grounds of this retirement home letting out his trademark Tarzan yell.

Another resident wistfully recalls missing out on a date with Marilyn Monroe, while a third has stories about “Walt” or “Frank” – that is Walt Disney or Frank Sinatra.

Hollywood’s golden age may be long gone but it’s still very much alive and kicking at this retirement community north of Los Angeles, where a who’s who of the industry resides.

Here, you can meet a set director who worked on “Doctor Zhivago” or “Mutiny on the Bounty”, a film researcher who worked on “Star Trek”, “Chinatown” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” or a 103-year old actress who knew Sinatra and recently auditioned for a horror flick.


“The people here have done every kind of job you can imagine associated with film and television,” says Bob Beitcher, president and CEO of the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF), which runs the home located in Woodland Hills.

“You have everything from publicists, to animators to character actors to directors, writers, wardrobe, costume, hair and makeup.”

Founded in 1921 by cinema pioneers Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, DW Griffith and Mary Pickford, the MPTF’s mission was initially focused on helping stars unable to make the transition from silent film to “talkies”.

The charitable organisation began with coin boxes that were placed at the studios, where actors could drop spare change to help industry professionals who often worked as freelancers and had no job protection.

Nearly a century later, the MPTF continues to take care of its own through donations, albeit on a much bigger scale, with the likes of George Clooney, Kirk Douglas and Steven Spielberg lending their support.

“No other industry in the world has done something like this and this is what makes it so remarkable,” Beitcher says.

“People who work in the industry are like gypsies,” he adds. “They move from place to place, uproot their families to move to Louisiana, to New York or to Europe … and many do physical labour on a film or TV set that is hard on them.”

About half of the 165 residents at the retirement home pay for their room and board, which ranges from $3,400 to $6,100 (Bt121,500 to Bt218,000) a month, and the Fund pays for the other half unable to afford the cost.

Though a few of the retirees on the sprawling 40-acre campus are well-known in the industry, the majority are cast and crew members who spent their careers working quietly behind the scenes and never got on-screen billing.

Steven Kohler, 87, can make your head spin as he ticks off the names of some of the greats he rubbed shoulders with during his long career as a set dresser.

“Oh yeah, the crew would all sit together for lunch sometimes during filming,” he says, recalling his time on the set of the 1965 epic drama “Doctor Zhivago”, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.

Marlon Brando, whom Kohler got to know during filming of the 1962 historical drama “Mutiny on the Bounty,” was nothing more than a kind-hearted gentleman, he says.

“The bigger they were, the more friendly they were,” says Kohler, sitting in his impeccably decorated cottage at the retirement home, where he moved nearly five years ago.

“Brando was very generous. He helped people without anybody knowing.”

Fellow resident Robert Mirisch, 77, whose family ran the Mirisch Company, one of Hollywood’s top independent production companies in the 1960s, for his part likes to recall his missed date with Marilyn Monroe.

He had met Monroe during filming of the romantic comedy “Some Like it Hot,” produced by his family’s company, and ended up being invited to accompany the sultry star to the movie’s premiere in New York.

Only problem was that he had plans to visit his ailing father at the time and politely said ‘no.’

“So I’m the guy who turned down a date with Marilyn Monroe and my father had the gall to live numbers of years after that,” jokes Mirisch, who was an entertainment industry attorney and who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bob Hope.

But living at the retirement home is not all about showbiz memories, playing poker or doing laps at the pool donated by Jodie Foster.

A number of the retirees put their creative talents to use at the community’s in-house TV station where they produce original programming – including a comedy called “Law and Disorder,” documentaries and game shows – that is mixed with Hollywood movies and sitcom reruns.

“Channel 22 proves creativity doesn’t end when you are 65,” Beitcher says.

Some of the residents, such as 103-year-old Connie Sawyer, also still work professionally and are not ready to call it quits.

Sawyer, whose filmography includes a role in “A Hole in the Head,” starring Frank Sinatra, as well as dozens of other movies and television series, last year appeared in a Super Bowl commercial and just recently auditioned for a horror movie.

“I’m still waiting to hear from them if I got the role,” she says.


From hilltop to tabletop

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Sturgeon raised in the mountains of Chiang Mai produce their first batches of caviar

THE SUPPORT FOUNDATION has been busy recently celebrating yet another triumph – the production of its very own Siberian sturgeon caviar. More commonly associated with waters in colder climes, the fish are being raised as part of Her Majesty the Queen’s Baan Lek Nai Pa Yai (Little House in the Big Forest) project high in the mountains of Chiang Mai‘s Wiang Haeng district.

“The water temperature on Doi Dam drops as low as minus two degrees Celsius,” Dr Somchai Thoranisorn, director of the Model Farm Projects, told guests at last week’s “A Spoonful of Love” launch event at Cafe Parisien in the Glasshouse@Sindhorn on Wireless Road.

“In January 2002, Her Majesty came to Doi Dam for the first time to witness the ongoing projects of Baan Lek Nai Pa Yai,” recalls Dr Jaranthada Karnasuta, an ichthyologist and adviser to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary.

“The Queen was deeply concerned about conditions in the border area around Doi Dam, which was said to be rampant with drugs. On a positive side though, the area was still untouched. The watershed forests were abundant and the streams had plenty of clean, clear water. Her Majesty asked the hilltribe people what kind of fish lived in the stream, and whether they managed to eat them and earn a living from them. They replied that the stream was at such a high altitude and so cold that the fish from downstream could not make it that far.


“Her Majesty then instructed her assistants to find fish species that could survive in cold water. She turned to me – I was at that time Deputy Director General of the Department of Fisheries – and asked, ‘Shall we try and raise imported cold-water fish? Will it have a negative impact on the environment?’ From this royal initiative, the working committee conducted studies, and decided on rainbow trout, which can withstand very cold temperatures. With the support of the Canadian government, we experimented with this species at the Baan LekNai Pa Yai project in Doi Dam and it proved successful,” Dr Jaranthada says.

“However, the production costs were so high that we had to change our initial plan and let the villagers raise the fish for sale only and use the proceeds to buy cheaper and more accessible sources of protein for themselves. Rainbow trout is a delicious fish with firm succulent flesh, and not many bones. Thanks to the high market demand, rainbow trout from Doi Dam provides a good income for the villagers.”

Eight years ago, the project decided to spread its wings.

Dr Jaranthada again takes up the tale: “Through its cordial bilateral relations with Thailand, Russia presented Her Majesty the Queen with Siberian sturgeon roe, which she gave to the Department of Fisheries to put in nurseries on Doi Inthanon. They were then sent to the Baan Lek Nai Pa Yai project at Doi Dam. Thanks to a climate that’s cool all year round, the sturgeon successfully hatched for the first time in Southeast Asia. The fish does not hatch fast so only after nurturing them for eight years were we able to harvest the first batch of sturgeon caviar. Training was given by a specialist from Russia and we presented the caviar to Their Majesties and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to taste. They were delighted, sturgeon meat is also tasty and nutritious so now we are planning to raise sturgeons in different ponds to ensure a good supply,” he explains.

The Modern Thai Farms projects, of which Baan Lek Nai Pa Yai is one, have also enjoyed several other successes in bringing a wider variety of agricultural produce to the Thai plate.

“Some years ago. China presented Her Majesty with 100 Shitou goose eggs for her projects. Her Majesty gave them to the Livestock Department to hatch, and they were raised at the Model Farm project in Ban Yang Klang, Angthong province. Since then Shitou geese have been raised in every province. It is one of the world’s heaviest geese, with the male weighing up to 10 to 12 kilograms, and the female weighing eight to nine kg,” Somchai says.

“Shitou meat fits well in both eastern and western cuisine too, which has made it popular with restaurants.

“One more product that we are proudly presenting today is Dok Kleu, a fleur de sel and sea salt. It is produced in Phetchaburi’s Baan Laem district on a coastal plot that was presented to Her Majesty some years ago. It used to be a salt farm and the Queen thought it could be suitable as a farm for sea animals. This was at a time when shrimp farming was all the rage and was causing severe damage to the environment. We wanted to turn it into a zero waste farm but after testing the salinity of the land and finding it very high, we decided to continue with high quality sea salt farming and breed brine shrimp for aquatic animals. The outcome has been excellent,” he says.

The Support Foundation is also behind several other products, among them Arabica coffee from the Highland Agricultural Development projects in Ban Pang Khon and Doi Mon Lan, Chiang Rai, and organic, temperate-climate vegetables from various projects in the north.

“In addition to promoting handicrafts for which the foundation is best known, Her Majesty the Queen has always worked to further the royal initiatives of His Majesty the King in improving the well-being of all his people in every region,” says Thanpuying Charungjit Teekara, Deputy Private Secretary to Her Majesty the Queen.

“I remember accompanying Her Majesty the Queen on her trips to the highlands and her insistence that we refer to the ethnic peoples as ‘Thai hill people’ to stress they too are part of this country. During every visit, Her Majesty would spend a lot of time asking people about their well-being and looking at ways to help them earn sufficient income without practising the shifting cultivation that was no longer sustainable and was harming the forests and environment. Her Majesty found substitute work for them, not too onerous or difficult, but tasks they were already accustomed to. The women would do embroidery in their own traditions, while the men would do basketry. The Support Foundation would then buy all these products.

“The Baan Lek Nai Pa Yai project was a way of providing sources of income and occupations as well as new agricultural skills for the villagers. The projects help provide them with sources of food, rice, vegetables, herbs, as well as livestock, all benefiting the communities and their environment.”

And those projects have paid off handsomely both for the beneficiaries and those who buy their product. With 56 agricultural training centres and 18 development stations across the country, the foundation can be proud of its 40 years of hard work.

And now there’s caviar too.

Cafe Parisien’s chef Herve Frerard did the products proud last week introducing a menu that featured baked sturgeon fillet, Mediterranean style vegetable and saffron Beurre Blanc, mushroom feuillete, caviar Malossol, fresh sea urchin and yazu cream, marinated rainbow trout fillet with blood orange and watercress cream, roasted Shitou goose fillet with ratte potatoes and lemon thyme jus, and finishing up with chocolate finger, vanilla espuma and pang khon coffee sable”.

“I love the title of today’s event ‘A Spoonful of Love’ illustrates exactly what the foundation is all about. The love of Her Majesty for Her people,” Thanpuying Charungjit says with a smile.


– Products from projects initiated by Her Majesty the Queen and sold under the brand Silpacheep are available at its store in the Or Tor Kor fresh market in Bangkok.

– For more information, check out Facebook.com/SupportFoundationOfHmq.


What’s your birth pagoda?

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



The Mall display replicas of the Northeast’s Phra That suitable for Visaka Bucha Day worship

FOR VISAKHA BUCHA DAY tomorrow, marking the anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, The Mall Group has brought to Bangkok replicas of the deeply symbolic phra that pagodas for which northeastern Nakhon Phanom province is famous.

The faithful are invited to make merit at the displays at The Mall Ngamwongwan anytime through Sunday as the shopping centre celebrates “Visakha Bucha Day: Maha Mongkol 84th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen Worshipping Phra That from Two Lands”.

The “two lands” includes Laos, where fortune-teller Katha Chinabanchorn and the group’s executives also took clients and reporters on a recent merit-making tour of Nakhon Phanom.

The tour party paid respects at the various phra that and collected replicas, blessed by monks, to bring back to Bangkok.


Visakha Bucha Day is customarily observed by walking in circles around a temple or chedi, stupa or pagoda while holding lighted candles, incense and flowers. Residents of Nakhon Phanom prepare markbeng – beautiful, green, cone-like offerings made of banana leaves and flowers, with which they circumabulate the temples. Nuns and elderly people bestow blessings by tying cotton string around the wrists of the faithful.

Nakhon Phanom has more phra that than any other province, each pagoda representing one of the “eight days” – the seven days of the calendar and an extra one for Wednesdays, since Thai astronomy distinguishes between Wednesday daytime and night. Worshippers find the phra that ascribed to their day of birth, or in the case of Wednesday’s children, to their time of birth.

“According to the legend of the Urangkathat Chronicle, a relic of the Buddha was taken to the Khotraboon empire in what is now the Thai Northeast, along the Mekong River,” Katha told the tour group. The empire covered present-day Udon Thani, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen, Ubon Rachathani and Vientiane in Laos. “So this area is the centre of Isaan Buddhism, and each pagoda’s location was chosen according to astrology.”

That Phanom district has the Phra That Phanom, a 53-metre-tall squared pagoda of Laotian influence. What we see today is a copy of the original, which was erected sometime prior to the 12th Buddhist century but collapsed amid drenching rains in 1975. The current structure matches the original, though it has a 110-kilogram solid-gold spire at the pinnacle.

Phra That Phanom is dedicated to people born on a Sunday and – like Her Majesty the Queen – during the Year of the Monkey.

In Tha Uthen district, the Phra That Tha Uthen, erected in 1912, houses relics of a disciple of the Buddha that were brought here from Burma. Laos is clearly visible across the Mekong, which flows alongside the temple. There were few tourists around, so the scene was peaceful, conducive to prayer, especially for people born on a Friday, as was the Queen.

Phra That Renu, made from a lovely light pink stone, welcomes those born on a Monday to Wat Phra That Renu Nakhon. Built in 1918, again in the Laotian style, it overlooks a community of ethnic Phu Tai, a people gifted at weaving and happy to present their traditional dances.

Crossing the river from Mukdahan province to Savannakhet in Laos, we next visited the temple of the Phra That Ing Hang, which purportedly contains a shard of the Buddha’s spinal column. In style the pagoda is the twin of the Phra That Phanom, beautifully carved and decorated and about nine metres tall. Worshippers are required to dress respectfully, women in long skirts.

The replicas brought back by The Mall Group are miniature marvels and make worship convenient for Bangkok residents, but nothing can possibly compare to seeing the actual pagodas in person.

If you happen to be at the shopping complex, the display is fine for a quick round of making merit, and related activities and talks are also being held. Still, you should plan to visit Nakhon Phanom and see the phra that as they were intended to be seen. Whether you’re a believer or not, you’re apt to get much more out of it.


Written on the leaves

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



A rarely seen part of our cultural heritage is being digitally preserved

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY you see a monk writing Lanna script on a dried palm leaf with a metal stylus, but the age-old tradition lingers at Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong in Chiang Mai.

Palm-leaf manuscripts – khum phi bai lan – represent one of the oldest writing and painting media in South and Southeast Asia. And it’s dying out thanks to the dampness, hungry insects and the very fragility of the leaves.

A manuscript on a palm leaf might last a few decades or, with luck, 600 years. When it begins to decay, the script has to be transferred onto another leaf.

The content includes passages from Buddhist literature, historical records, and laws, customs and culture. The subjects range from astrology, mythology and rituals to medicine and folk tales. The language can be the Northern Thai (Lanna), Tai Khuen, Tai Lue, Lao, Shan, Burmese or Pali.


Monastic reforms issuing from Bangkok in the early 20th century saw use of the Lanna language suppressed and along with it the writing of Lanna manuscripts in any form. Efforts to preserve khum phi bai lan as a regional literary tradition began in the early 1960s.

“It’s very hard now to find Aksorn Tham Lanna script, the northern dharma characters, because everyone uses the standard Thai alphabet,” says Phra Maha Prasert Siripunyo. The 28-year-old monk at Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong is one of the few who still inscribe palm leaves.

Preparing the leaves is in itself a complicated process, and another reason why the ancient practice has given way to modern forms.

“We cut the third and fourth leaves from the top of a lan palm [genus Corypha] because only the half-opened leaves are suitable,” says the monk. The leaves are cut to the required size and softened by boiling for three days in water that’s been used to wash rice (nam sao kao). Then the leaves are dried, pressed, polished and trimmed further as needed.

Inscribing is usually done with a sharp wooden or metal stylus, and then a mixture of resin or oil and pot soot (min mo) is applied to make the text more legible.

The manuscripts are bound with cord strung through holes punched at either end and stored between wooden panels (mai pa kad) that are sometimes painted or gilded. A cloth wrap keeps the bundle free from dust. The manuscripts are kept in temple repositories (ho tham), but are forever at risk of being destroyed by fire or termites.

Harald Hundius, professor emeritus in Thai and Lao languages and literature at the University of Passau in Germany, has spent four decades studying palm-leaf manuscripts in both Asian countries – and trying to preserve the practice.

Fluent in Thai, Hundius migrated from research on the poetry of Sunthorn Phu to the first comprehensive survey of Lanna manuscripts, conducted from 1971 to 1974 in the Thai North with funding from a German foundation. To understand the text he studied the Lanna language (kham mueang) with Singkha Wannasai in Lamphun.

It was Ajarn Singkha who had in 1966 completed a survey of the manuscripts at Wat Lai Hin in Lampang for the Siam Society.

“Kham mueang is difficult,” admits Hundius, now 77. “It was almost two years before I had the courage to try and speak it, and the locals laughed at me, but I didn’t give up!”

While lecturing at Chiang Mai University he initiated the Preservation of Northern Thai Manuscripts Project, and then headed to Laos to do the same there, with financing from the German government.

That led to a Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts, and an identical library for northern Thai manuscripts was undertaken in 2013, with funding – scant to begin with – finally secured from the Henry Luce Foundation and, again, the German government. Significant support has also come from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania.

“It’s quite hard for researchers to get to the manuscripts at the temples,” Hundius says, explaining the key appeal of the digital libraries. “You have to get permission to go inside the repositories and you have to read the documents on-site. The online library makes the manuscripts more accessible for study and also helps preserve the originals.”

Complicating matters, though, is the fact that the library curators are based in Laos, says David Wharton, technical director for the Northern Thai project. “We have to borrow microfilm copies from Chiang Mai and then check them in Laos before sending them to Germany to be digitised,” he says, while praising their Lao colleagues and the National Library of Laos, where they’re based.

“There are still hundreds to thousands more ancient manuscripts out there,” Hundius says, “and we want to preserve their content for study.

“We’re a bit anxious because the funding period ends in a few months, but, when I look at those monks and the villagers who spent their whole lives taking good care of the ancient manuscripts, it encourages me not to give up.

“The practice of writing on palm leaves is almost gone,” the professor says. “People these days don’t even understand what’s written on the leaves. But now that this rich literary heritage is available online, we hope their increased accessibility will contribute in turn to the maintenance of the physical tradition for many more generations to come.”


– The Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts contains more than 170,000 images of manuscripts, on both palm leaf (bai lan) and mulberry paper (phap sa).

– For details, check LannaManuscripts.net.


Bolshoi! Rugged, rigid family joy

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



There is perhaps no better place to learn classic dance than in the Moscow Academy

IN A VAST, well-lit room, a dozen girls in identical lavender leotards, hair in tight chignons, strike an arabesque pose and share the same dream – of one day joining Russia’s famed Bolshoi Ballet.

Others chatter in the building’s endless corridors, legs impossibly splayed in full splits. Welcome to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, churning out talent for one of the world’s leading dance companies.

“Our school is the keeper of great traditions,” says instructor Valery Anisimov, watching a class of eight particularly gifted students.

Located in south Moscow, far from the gilded splendour of the historic Bolshoi Theatre, the academy has produced some of the world’s most celebrated ballerinas, including Maya Plisetskaya and Maris Liepa.


“We train our dancers for the world of classical theatre,” says Anisimov. “We teach them the little secrets of Russian ballet, the most rigorous techniques there are.”

Founded in the 1770s, like the Bolshoi Theatre, the academy – also called the Moscow State School of Choreography – today has 721 students ages 10 to 19. They attend rigorous classes from 9am to 6pm and then end the day with solo practice.

While the younger students follow both dance and regular school curricula, the focus narrows almost exclusively to ballet after they turn 15.

“We don’t have the right to make mistakes – we can never slack off,” says 15-year-old Liza, who’s been dancing for 10 years. “Sometimes in the evening I just want to plop down on the couch and snack in front of the telly, but instead I have to do homework for the next day.”

“It’s not easy,” chimes in 17-year-old Mikhail. “Since it’s our profession, it’s all right, but there is a lot of work.”

At the final exam the academy invites recruiters from the world’s top ballet companies to watch the graduating talent. And scouts from the Bolshoi Theatre are in the front row.

“Everyone would love to go on to the Bolshoi, to become a star,” says 15-year-old Harper Ortlieb, an American attending the school. She left her Oregon hometown to study in Moscow after the Bolshoi academy discovered her via YouTube videos.

“This is the best school in the world. The teachers and their level of involvement in the courses is incredible,” she says.

Ortlieb, whose mother moved with her to Moscow, is one of 84 foreign students from all corners of the world pursuing the Russian classical technique, which is characterised by bold, dramatic, almost athletic movements.

“I’m the only foreigner in my class, but other students are helping me a lot,” Harper says.

The Bolshoi suffered a blow to its image when the ballet troupe’s artistic director, Sergei Filin, was maimed in a horrific acid attack in 2013, orchestrated by one of its own soloists.

The ensuing criminal case and courtroom drama exposed the ferocious competition. Allegations of corruption and favouritism behind the scenes still weigh on the company.

Last month Filin was replaced by Makhar Vaziev, a veteran of both the rival Saint Petersburg school – where the ballet greats Vaslav Nijinksi and Rudolf Nureyev studied (today called the Vaganova Academy) – and another rival, the Mariinsky theatre.

Vaziev, who quit the post of ballet chief at La Scala to come to the Bolshoi at a difficult time, has vowed to uphold its tradition of recruiting dancers “mostly from the Moscow school”.

“There should be a close link between the Bolshoi Theatre and the Moscow school,” he declared this month.

For the young dancers, transitioning from the academy into the professional world is a change of pace. The school is “like a family”, says a former student, now 22. “We all lived together in the dorm, three people to a room. We all shared the same fears and the same dreams.”

But such a closed environment has its downfalls, she says, asking not to be named out of fear of reprisals. She’d hoped for a dancing career abroad, but found it difficult after a “purely Russian” dance education.

“We didn’t even learn English,” she says. “When you’re a student, the whole world stops at the doors of the academy, of Russia, of |dance. It’s only now I’m discovering that there may be other things to live for.”


Cleaning up for prose

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




An Argentine cleaner leads a double life as a prize- winning writer

WHEN THE Buenos Aires subway closes at night, Enrique Ferrari goes underground to mop the platforms – and to polish his next thriller. The Argentine station cleaner, 44, with bags under his eyes, is also a prize-winning crime novelist.

He has been published in several countries, but it is the night-time cleaning job which puts food on the table for his three children.

“Live off writing? The money isn’t good enough,” he says.

A representative for cleaning and other unskilled staff in the subway workers’ union, he is seen as a curiosity: a decorated writer who has never been to university.

The author – and his gritty, succinct prose – has caught the media’s eye, appearing on television, radio and in news reports where he has been dubbed the “subway writer”.

But he is fed up with the sobriquet.

“I understand that people find it surprising, but I am not a strange creature. There are lots of we labourers who write, paint or play music,” says Ferrari, an easygoing man who himself laughs about his disparate vocations.

“It is a peculiarity of capitalists and the bourgeoisie to think that we workers have no culture,” adds the novelist, whose many tattoos include one of Karl Marx on his left arm.

Ferrari, known as Kike, has published five novels and two collections of short stories.

His murder mystery “Que de lejos parecen moscas” (“They Look Like Flies From A Distance”) won a prize at the prestigious Gijon crime writing festival in Spain in 2012. That got him published in France, Mexico and Italy.

Previously he won a prize in Cuba for “Lo Que No Fue” (“What Was Not”), a political thriller set in Barcelona during the Spanish civil war.

In the subway, he clears up commuters’ rubbish in an environment that reflects the dark settings of his crime fiction.

“I work in an abandoned city. In a universe which is always overpopulated, I come along after the party.”

In the brief breaks during his cleaning shift, he switches on an old laptop and polishes his manuscripts.

“I write whenever I can, wherever I can,” he says. “Although during the day I’m most interested in finding time to sleep.”

His other work space is a little table piled with books in a corner of his apartment in the Once district of Buenos Aires.

He has worked as a baker, driver and street vendor.

He spent three years living illegally in the United States before being deported, but came back home with his first novel under his belt: “Operation Bukowski”, published in Buenos Aires in 2004.

A fan of River Plate football club and rock ‘n’ roll music, Kike grew up in a modest home.

When he was eight, his father gave him a book of “Sandokan”, from a series of classic pirate adventure novels by the early 20th-century Italian writer Emilio Salgari.

“Instead of dreaming of being a pirate, I dreamed of writing without stopping, like Salgari.”

But he doesn’t want to go the same way as his literary hero.

“Salgari ended up committing suicide. He was tired of the publishers sucking his blood,” he says.

“He wrote them a letter saying: ‘I bid you farewell as I break my pen.’ I’m going to tattoo that on myself,” he says with a cackle.

Despite the prizes he has won, Kike is on the margins of the literary scene, shunned by major publishers.

“I do not think of literature as a career,” he says.

“But at quarter to eleven, 15 minutes before I go to mop the floors, I dream of winning an international prize or of Steven Spielberg wanting to film one of my books.”

Tales told of Peace

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Bangkok’s storytelling festival shows how fiction can shape truth

EVERYONE LOVES A good story told well, but storytelling is particularly important for children, as professional tellers of tales demonstrated at the fourth International Storytelling Festival, held this month in Bangkok.

“Peacetales”, as this edition was called, took place at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, hosted by the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre.

More than 16 professional storytellers participated, from Myanmar, Singapore, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Italy, Taiwan, South Korea and the US, as well several Thais with a gift for expression, among them hilltribe children from the Jomaloluela School.

During a discussion on “Tales for Peace”, panellists Dr Margaret Read MacDonald, Sheila Wee and Giovanna Conforto offered inspiring examples of how hearing stories orally told can have a transforming effect on youngsters. If the stories present alternatives to aggression in settling differences – and explain the causes of the fear that fosters violence – the result might be a more peaceful world.


It makes no difference if the stories are thousands of years old, said MacDonald, an American who compiled “Peace Tales” and other collections of folktales and has authored many popular children’s books.

“They can still serve a purpose – even though they’re very old they’re still vital,” she said. “You can always find an old story that matches the needs of today.”

She cited one “wonderful story” included in “Peace Tales” of relevance today about the Muslim Parsis of Persia migrating to India a millennium ago.

“The maharaja couldn’t communicate in their language, so he brought out a bowl of milk as a sign that his land was full and couldn’t accept any more people. The Parsi leader poured some sugar into the milk to show that, if they were admitted, they would sweeten the land without taking up space.

“The maharaja allowed them to settle on three conditions – that they adopt the local language and mode of dress, and that they never convert to Hinduism. In other words, ‘You must keep your own religion.’ I wish that everyone today in Europe, the US, the Middle East and across the world could hear this story,” MacDonald said

Singaporean Sheila Wee has pioneered the use of storytelling to give both children and adults the tools needed in daily life. “A story is like social currency,” she said. It’s a way of relating to other people, through sharing stories.

“You’re sitting in this room today because your ancestors, way back 150,000 years ago, were good listeners. We’ve been telling and listening to stories for that long. Those who listen to other people’s stories learn from their experiences and are better equipped to survive.

“And, because we’ve been listening to stories for so long, it’s shaped the way our brains work,” Wee said. “When we sense something, it goes to the unconscious brain before it reaches our consciousness. The story is first broken down into its building blocks so that we can understand and remember it better. It’s the most natural communication tool, so obviously it’s one of the best ways to get a message across.”

Wee cautioned that stories for the telling have to be chosen wisely, with the sensibilities of the audience in mind. “There are many stories, particular in Asia, in which revenge is a big theme. We need to look for the right stories to tell children, and when we find those that are suitable, we need to immerse them when they’re young.”

Conforto, an Italian who’s been weaving yarns since 2003, when her project “The Little Lamp, a Palestinian Fairy Tale” emerged from a children’s workshops series she led in Bethlehem, is member of the Storytelling and Peace Council.

“I’ve worked for many years for the Youth International Foundation, which helps at-risk children and other young people try to solve problems through art and explore alternative possibilities,” she said.

“I profoundly think that, in very difficult situations, the beauty of a story is in the way it reflects the beauty of humanity, and in my experience that makes it the most powerful of tools for effecting change. We not only ‘think’ in stories, we also ‘dream’ in stories, and we all share the world of stories. Used in a situation of conflict, the story becomes a safe place where we can all relax and share and be human beings, because the story is about humanity.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to tell a story that has message about peace to create peace through a story,” Conforto said. “An enormous number of stories with different points of view can be told. It’s said that, if you know someone else’s personal story, it’s more difficult to kill him.”

“We’re so used to thinking that the way we feel and think has to be the only the valid way, but if we hear many stories, many different points of view, and we allow them to get inside us and change us, then hopefully we’ll make wiser choices in life.”

By way of example, Conforto told a story.

“Once upon a time there was a king in a beautiful kingdom. One day a terrible monster came to the gates, scaring the whole population. His people told the king, ‘You must do something!’ But he was scared himself.

“He sent out his knights, the warriors, the big ones, but when they saw the enormous monster, they got scared too and ran off, until there was no one left. Then the people told the king, ‘You must do something – you are in charge!’ So the king, even though he had no confidence, went to the gate – and the monster somehow looked smaller.

“‘How is this possible?’ he said to himself. He took a little step further, and the monster looked a little bit smaller, and smaller, smaller and smaller, until he could pick up the monster in his hand. He asked it, ‘Who are you?’ And the monster said, ‘I am fear.'”

Audible gasps and appreciative murmurs suggested that what Conforto said next was already understood. “A story can help us identify the base cause of any conflict – which is fear,” she pointed out.

“We’re scared of ‘the other’, of the unknown. We’re always protecting ourselves from what we don’t know. I might not fully understand the politics of a real problem, but I’ve given you a fairytale, and I think it’s much more powerful. And the story had more impact because I told it in my own words. I told you a story that’s full of hope.”