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Royal Project in Esarn, Part I

The National Office of Public Relations is the government agency responsible for Radio of Thailand, TV Channel 11 and a news agency network that operates throughout eight provinces in the upper north under the supervision of Director Somjai Sasomsup. Recently the Region 3 office located in Chiangmai invited us as guests to report on Royal Projects in northeast Thailand. These projects are only few of more than 3,000 Royal Initiated Projects throughout the country. His Majesty is known abroad as the “Development King”. The year 2007 is a very special year, as it marks the auspicious occasion of His Majesty’s 80th Birthday Anniversary.

Day One

After a briefing on the objectives of the trip in the early morning of Monday, Nov 26, the tour bus with 40 members of the press headed off for Khon Kaen via Routes 11 and 12: Chiangmai _ Denchai area _ Uttaradit _ Wangthong (Phitsanulok) _ Lomsak (Petchaboon) _ Choompae _ Khon Kaen. The participants had a reunion and made fun with each other while the chauffeur confidently drove safely throughout the trip. We stopped for a big lunch at a restaurant in Uttaradit.

From the bus, the passing scenery was so beautiful through Denchai where the tall trees grew thick along the road for many kilometers. Between Denchai and Phrae was a village full of knock down Thai wood houses. It was an outdoor showroom of charming cottages. I wistfully noted each cottage was the perfect size for a newly married couple.

I was surprised to see the location of Chiva Som’s new property in Petchaboon province scheduled to open in 2010 in this picturesque and mountainous northern province of Petchaboon. We also passed several beautiful resorts in the same road.

After seeing all the greenery in Denchai and Phrae, the arid brown views in several districts in Petchaboon were a sad sight. The vast spread of rolling hills were brown. It’s hard to believe the hills remain this way during these days of so much talk about reforesting and importance of green natural environment.

We drove through the outskirts and inner areas of the main provincial city of Khon Kaen which is growing fast and came to the Bua Luang Restaurant situated on a little man made lake. About 8 p.m. that evening, we arrived at the Charoenthani Hotel (โรงแรมเจริญธานี) a member of the Royal Princess Group-- a nice hotel, but a bit aged around the edges. The rooms were homey decorated and the beds very comfortable after a long day in the bus.

Day Two

The following morning, Tuesday, November 27 the coffee shop was a sea of yellow shirts worn by the guests from Bangkok staying in the hotel for conferences and seminars. After breakfast buffet, we headed off for Udorn Thanee and Nhong Kai Provinces.

Driving through Khon Kaen I noticed many illustrations of dinosaurs in advertising signs and billboards. Whereas in Chiangmai, elephant illustrations are widely seen, dinosaurs are popular here. Dinosaurs are the mascot of Khon Kaen, since the discovery of dinosaur fossils. Mostly the buildings in the city are three stories height at the most. There is one tall building going up near the hotel that may be part of the hotel complex.

Before the main city of Udorn Thanee, we passed expanses of sugar cane, rice fields, and large plantations of tall thin rubber trees on the low plains before big forested hills. The trees are relatively young and without any cuts in the trunks.

At the Huay Saam Paad Royal Project (อ่างเก็บน้ำ ห้วยสามพา"), the reservoir is an earth wall dam. Somporn Amnuay is director. He quotes the King’s words, “din dee, naam dee, koonnapap sheewit dee” ("ิน"ี, น้ำ"ี, คุ"ภาพชีวิต"ี) or “Fertile earth, clean water makes for quality of life.”

Long before 1967, local check dams that were built by villagers could not prevent serious flooding during rainy seasons. A local agency appealed to the Irrigation Department for new reservoir to be built under the budget of 1967 and 1971 development project. However, the budget was not available until a Royal Visit to that site in 1985.

The Royal Initiated Project took place during the years of 1986 and 1992 at a budget of Eight million Baht.

The Statistics of the Project

The total length of Reservoir is 1,0678 Meters. The reservoir can store water. 10 million cu. meters. Water is provided to 22,000 rai of rice fields. The water usage throughout the year in the Past produced 300 kgs rice per rai. TODAY, the production has increased to 600 kgs. rice pe rai. The agriculture harvest has increased to enable rice growing 2 or 3 to times per year. Production of vegetables and chicken, fish frog, etc.

Additional expenses of the project include the installation of the rubber pneumatic dam measuring 60 meters wide with a longevity of 25 years at 20 million Baht. The construction of a small canal at 37 kms long to efficiently supply water to farmers. Total value of the project is 180 Million Baht.

Water is available for rice planting one time per year and the planting of vegetable gardens one time per year. The ingenious control of water is by a Rubber dam. By deflating the air pressure water is allowed to flow over the top into the spillway irrigation canal for the farmers to receive water for irrigation. This Pneumatic dam is a Japanese invention that is now produced in Thailand.

Eighty rai of land are dedicated to tourism infrastructure but the plan was halted due to administration’s lack of budget. “poo fye lohn” will offer camping, rafting and cycling.

We visited the Model Farm belonging to Uncle Comepoo Lonsuek at 73, Mooban 13. Baan Taad subdistrict on the outskirts of the main city of Udorn.

The model farm has 6 rai. One rai for the family’s house with a nearby area for frog, chicken and duck breeding. Just behind the house is a pond for “pla nin” fish breeding, with “paak kached”, a popular green vegetable also grows in the pond. In the cash crop garden grows “ma keua” eggplant, green onions, papaya, and “paak kanah” known as Thai broccoli. A sizeable rectangle cement tank is for “puay tammachard” or naturally processed fertilizer.

Additional fruit trees on the model farm were " banana, tamarind, with small plots of herbs, spices, etc. The farmer stated with four pairs of mature frogs and now his farm has thousands and thousands of frogs. More importantly, he grows rice in the pond alongside the areas divided for other purposes. He produces almost everything for the family to eat everyday. He sells the rest to the market to earn cash income of Baht 3,000 to 4,000 each month.

We were glad to visit the reservoir with the pneumatic dam, and observed now Uncle Comepoo’s family and the villagers truly lived the life of self sustainability in the two sub-districts.

Leaving the model farm, we drove on red dirt roads in country villages. Along the road were many water jar display shops. We saw homesteads drying rice in the sun. After ten minutes, we were back in the town of Goompawapee on the outskirts of Udorn Thanee’s main city.

An amusing sign was posted on the side of the road with a kangaroo cartoon and the words “Australian Bar turn right”.

We had lunch at Daeng Naem Nuang (ร้านอาหารแ"ง แหนมเนือง) restaurant on a newly constructed area with large open veranda looking on to the expansive Mae Khong River. The restaurant is a drawing point for visitors from all over the world to enjoy the “Vietnamese style” food. Not only is the area popular for this delicious food, nearby is an attractive day market with many items at very low prices. Friends bought all kinds of local products such as “ya mong” Tiger balm, and herbal beauty creams. I bought six paper fans with Chinese calligraphy.

Be sure to read our next issue with the continuing report on the northeast Royal Projects Odyssey.

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