On 24 - 27 February 2020, H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand led a group of 53 Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Consular Representatives, and International Organisations in Thailand and their spouses from 34 countries and 1 international organisation, along with executives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Study Visit of the Royally Initiated Projects in Chiang Rai Province. This programme aims to promote awareness on Royally Initiated Projects amongst the international community, especially the diplomatic corps.
On 25 February 2020, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn granted a Royal Audience to the dignitaries and participated in the visit to two Royally Initiated Projects:
First, San Thang Luang Village, Mae Chan district, where Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn graciously walked along side with the diplomatic corps through exhibitions, handicraft and cooking demonstrations by local communities on the path of sustainable living. San Thang Luang Village is located at Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai with an approximate population of 469 and 128 households. The village was an award-winning self-sufficient community and cultural village adopted under Her Royal Highness’ patronage.
Second, the Tea Oil and Other Crops Research and Development Centre at Terd Thai sub-district, Mae Sai district. The Development Project was established by the Chaipattana Foundation in 2011 as initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn acquired sample seeds and samplings of tea tree (Camellia oleifera) from the People’s Republic of China which were planted in three trial plots in Pang Mahan and Puna villages. The project has taught the community relevant skills such as maximising land usage, and also processes from planting and nurturing to harvesting the tea seeds. The project has also helped to improve irrigation systems and occupation development that served to reduce household expenses and provide income in the short, medium and long term as a sustainable alternative for local communities, allowing them to live in harmony with forests. During this visit, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also demonstrated cooking recipe with tea seed oil produced by the Centre.
During this study visit, the group also visited the Doi Tung Development Project, which reflects determination of Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, the Princess Mother to reforest the Doi Tung area which was once an opium field and bald mountains with shifting cultivation practices. Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, the Princess Mother’s projects transformed the parched, desolate summit to lush green forest by reforestation, and turned opium cultivators into farmers of alternative crops which subsequently led to the improvement of their livelihoods, and the development of social enterprises beneficial to the local people. Today, the project has successfully developed the Doi Tung area, notably in terms of the economy, society, and environment of the local community. The group also visited the Hall of Inspiration, where an interactive exhibition space portrays the lives and achievements of the members of the Mahidol Royal Family: His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol, Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, the Princess Mother, His Majesty King Ananda Mahidol and His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana.
Participants also visited the Handicrafts Training and Job Creation Centre, where they participated in four handicraft training stations, namely the coffee processing factory, the fabric weaving and sewing facilities, the ceramics factory and the Sa (mulberry) paper making factory. The second day ended at the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park where the dignitaries experienced with Thai Lanna (Thai northern style) dance and performance.
On the last day, the group visited the Baandam or Black House Museum and Thawan Duchanee Art Gallery, a folk art museum that consist of a collection of more than 40 building structures plotted in a large peaceful garden. Baandam belongs to the late Thawan Duchanee, a Thai renowned artist and National Visual Artist who spent more than 50 years building the Museum, which is his interpretation of the Buddhist philosophy. The delegation later visited Wat Rong Khun, or so called the White Temple. The temple was designed and built by Chalermmchai Kosipipat, a National Visual Artist. He used the white colour to signify the purity of Buddha, while the glass mirrors symbolize the Buddha’s wisdom and teachings.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand organised annual Study Visits for the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Consular Representatives and their spouses to Royally-initiated projects since 2002. The programme allowed participants to learn first-hand how the projects and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy or “SEP” initiated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great have benefitted local communities and improved the livelihoods of ordinary Thais. The diplomatic corps expressed their appreciation for the vision of Their Majesties and Their Royal Highnesses which is translated into these valuable development projects. Many Ambassadors expressed their views that these development initiatives, emphasising on sustainable development, could be applied in their countries. They thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in organising the study visit and encouraged the Ministry to continue such study visits as a way of promoting interaction and engagement between Thai governmental agencies with the diplomatic corps in Thailand in a more relaxing atmosphere.