Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Royal Chitralada Projects (The Royal Thai Projects)

A Malaysian delegation made up of 6 members led by Prof Datuk Makhdzir Mardan went on a three day trip to familiarise with projects undertaken by the Royal family of Thailand. The delegation was made up of Prof Makhdzir and his wife, Tan Sri Mohd Noor Ismail, Ariffin Mohd Nor , Daud and I. We departed at 7.55 am by Thai Airways (TG 112) on January 4,2011 and were at the Bangkok International Airport 1hr 50 mts later. We checked in at Novotel Hotel at Siam Square. After lunch at Hayati Restaurant in the Muslim area of Bangkok and we proceeded on a two-hour cruise of Chao Phya River. Although I have visited the city many times this was the first time I have gone on the Cruise. In the evening I managed to catch up with swimming, sweating in the sauna and a 2 hour traditional Thai massage, ending the day's programme.

2. The following day (Jan. 5), we visited the Royal Chitralada projects located in the outer ring of the palace ground. The briefing that was given indicated that the Royal Projects were started in 1961 by the King himself, out of the realisation that his subjects, mainly farmers who are the backbone of the country, need to be assisted and demonstrated on the better and improved way of practicing agriculture. The Royal Projects are principally agricultural covering rice cultivation, fish culture, livestock farming, mushroom culture, food products, utilization of agric waste, vegetable and horticultural crops and forest conservation. At the palace ground among the projects we visited were the processing of milk, tissue culture, processing of honey, the processing of rice husks into charcoal briquets, the production of biofuel. The Projects got the involvement of the Universities and members of the Royal Institute of Thailand (RIT).

3. In the afternoon we visited the RIT. We were received by its Vice-President, Prof. Dr. Piamsak Menasveta and Prof. Santhad Rojanasoonthon. Prof Santhad is a member of the Royal Project Foundation. RIT is an institute made up of knowledgeable individuals and experts (designated as Fellows) in the three areas/sectors - science, fine arts and social science. A total of 80 fellows made up the Institute and they are closely associated with the Royal Projects. We departed for Chiang Mai late that evening, checking in at the Holiday Inn.

4. On the morning of Jan. 6 we departed for the Royal Agricultural Station, Ithanon, a two hours drive to the north-west of Chiang Mai. The Station established in 1982 is to undertake research on suitable high generating income crops to replace opium. In the 50s and 60s the hill tribes in the area were practicing shifting cultivation and growing poppies. The King and the Government wanted to discourage the people from growing this crop and started experimenting with alternative crops. Fruits such as grapes, strawberry; vegetables such as carrot, capsicum, tomato, bitter gourd, cabbage, lettuce and corn; and flowers such as roses, orchids; and trout rearing, provide better income to the people compared to poppies. The flowers, the vegetables,the trout fish ponds and the fruits provide the luscious landscape of Ithanon today.

5. The Royal projects are funded both by the Royal treasury and the Government. The success of the Projects are attributed to the passion and commitment of members of the Royal family, their relevance to the target group, the support of the scientific community and adequate funding.

6. It was a hectic three day trip. It was educational and now how to translate the experiences of Thailand to Malaysia.