Wise philosophies from Bhutan and the Thai King

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Monday, October 17, 2005

"I think it would be a good idea."
Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization

First some news from Thailand and neighbouring Burma:

"Landmine maims elephants
Two young female elephants, aged six and two years, were admitted to Lampang Elephant Hospital yesterday morning, a week after triggering a landmine in Burma. The explosion on Oct 5 mutilated six year-old Mojay's right hind leg and Motoo's left front leg.

At the time they were following their mother to haul logs in the Burmese forest opposite Tak's Tha Song Yang district, said Soraida Salwala, founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant, which runs the hospital. The mother was not injured.

For five days the elephants' owner, Pasupo Wiangbunlue of Tak, coaxed the maimed animals back through the deep jungle and across the Moei river into Thailand, she said. Mojay's condition was improving, but two-year-old Motoo's injuries were worrying, said Ms Soraida."

OK, next are two articles I like. The first one is about Bhutan. The next one is about the King of Thailand. I have put these two articles in because I agree with many of the philosophies that are discussed in these articles and I strongly believe that if more leaders and also the people of the world would understand and follow along these paths we would be living in a much happier world and all of us would be much better off. What is discussed here would be of great benefit to politicians, aid workers, and anyone.

Kingdom at the crossroads

Despite Bhutan's visionary leadership and his attempts to rein in fast-track development, change is knocking on the door of the Land of the Thunder Dragon
Story and photos by SANITSUDA EKACHAI
Prayer flags flutter in the breeze. Steep mountains pierce the clouds. Fierce streams cut through gorges, sending echoes across the wild frontier. Farmers in traditional clothes till terraced fields shrouded in mist _ as their ancestors did centuries ago.

At a glance, time seems to have come to a standstill in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where ancient beliefs and traditions are still a way of life.

For many visitors, Bhutan's panoramic mountain peaks, natural abundance, religious mystique and strong cultural identity make the country the closest one can get to Shangri-La.

Everywhere they turn, visitors feel as if they are being transported back in time by the ubiquity of people in traditional costumes, Bhutanese-style architecture and the rich natural world that sustains self-sufficient farmers who continue to seek spiritual guidance from monks in reddish robes.

Unlike the rest of the world, which is facing the onslaught of development, Bhutan's geographical isolation and long-standing policy to keep the world at bay has apparently succeeded in protecting much of its cultural heritage.

The Bhutanese leadership wants to keep it that way.

``You need to know where you come from in order to know where you're going,'' Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup said, explaining why Bhutan makes deliberate efforts to preserve national costumes, architecture and language as a national policy.

It's not a matter of sheer wisdom alone. It's matter of survival. Politically sandwiched between two giant neighbours, China and India, Bhutan, a tiny, land-locked kingdom, feels it's necessary for its survival to keep a distinct identity.

``Small as we are, if we lose our cultural identity, we lose everything. But if we can maintain a distinct culture, then we can protect our sovereignty.''

The prime minister was addressing a delegation of Thai cultural experts during a recent visit organised by the Foreign Ministry to get to know the Himalayan kingdom, which has recently joined the regional economic group Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation (Bimstec).

Bhutan, which calls itself Land of the Thunder Dragon, quit its isolationist policy to open up to the world only some 40 years ago _ but with great caution.

For example, its policy of regulated tourism requiring tourists to pay $200 (8,200 baht) a day during their stay is an attempt to prevent the country from being overwhelmed by mass tourism at the cost of its culture and environment _ as has happened in so many developing countries.

Shrouded in mystique, Bhutan has won worldwide respect for making people's happiness, environmental conservation and cultural identity the country's development goals _ not wealth and material consumption.

They call it GNH, short for gross national happiness, as an antidote to GNP, or gross national product, the mainstream indicator of economic development.

Influenced by Buddhist philosophy, the much-heralded alternative development model was the initiative of Bhutan's highly-respected and well-loved monarch King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

``It is based on the belief that the pursuit of happiness is the innermost desire of every human being,'' explained Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley, minister for home and cultural affairs. It is the responsibility of the government to make it happen, he added.

Being a latecomer in modernisation has its blessings. But after looking around for best practices, the deeply religious kingdom found that no country acknowledged happiness as a development end.

``On the contrary, many seemed to be moving away from happiness because they appeared to be lost in the jungle of what is perhaps mistakenly seen as the means,'' the minister said.

The king, he said, believes such modern stress and strains stem from a lack of balance in the consumerist, market-driven approach to growth and development. Bhutan's jlpfchallenge, therefore, is to strike a balance between material and spiritual pursuits.

``We decided to follow what to the Buddhist is known as the Middle Path,'' he said.

How to make this a reality?

By striving to provide better quality of life to the citizens, in both mind and body, while fostering economic self-reliance, he said. By preserving the natural environment, which is the source of the livelihoods of the majority of Bhutanese. And by maintaining the Bhutanese' strong cultural identity so they will not lose their roots in the wake of change.

``Located in the Himalayas, ours is a very fragile environment,'' Minister Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley said.

Although Bhutan has a population of only about 700,000, he said the kingdom cannot support a much larger population or more cultivation if it wants to keep its rich biological diversity.

``We feel that if we are to sustain ourselves, we must preserve our nature,'' Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup said. ``We then have decided that at least 60 percent [of the country] must remain forever forest coverage. It's non-negotiable.''

At present, Bhutan has increased its forest cover to 72 percent of its land mass. Some 26 percent of the entire country has been designated as wildlife-protected area. The country also has a strict law to prohibit environmentally destructive industries.

``Our survival and any chance of happiness are directly and immediately conditioned by the way we relate to nature,'' Minister Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley said.

Culture is important too, he added: It takes more than preserving the obvious manifestation of cultural identity such as clothes, architecture and language. Culture, he said, can also be defined as a cluster of values that provide a moral and ethical framework in which society can operate. Such human qualities as compassion, affection, courtesy, forgiveness, generosity, honour, sacrifice and humility should never be allowed to be corroded by greed-driven development, he said.

Apart from balancing spirituality with materialistic pursuits, Bhutan's challenge is to balance individualism with larger societal goods so that one does not get lost in selfish pursuits and lose one's sense of belonging or spiritual well-being.

``GNH also needs good governance,'' said Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup. ``His Majesty the King makes it clear that to achieve our goals we need to need to enhance efficiency through accountability and transparency.''

One of the king's efforts to institutionalise good governance is to set Bhutan on the path to a constitutional monarchy and democracy.

Bhutan only emerged from a decentralised theocracy to absolute monarchy in 1907. In his attempt to open up Bhutan's political life seven years ago, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck changed the life-time position of his ministers to elected posts with secret votes by Parliament. Under the new system, the ministers serve only five years, with one of them taking a turn as prime minister for one year.

Through the liberal monarch's initiatives, the draft constitution to establish a constitutional monarchy with a multi-party system is currently in the public hearing phase.

``We draw our inspiration from His Majesty the King, who is upright, honest and lives a very simple life,'' said Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup. ``He lives in a simple log cabin. We ministers live in better houses. His Majesty always sacrifices for the people.''

As part of the democratisation process, a local administration system has been set up to allow people to have a say in the determination of their goals.

``His Majesty said one good person is good, but not adequate,'' recalled the prime minister. ``One good king is no good, he said. What if a bad king comes along? But if we build a strong system, His Majesty said we will be able to sustain what we hope to build.''

Despite visionary leadership, uncomfortable changes are knocking on Bhutan's door.

Satellite TV has introduced the traditional populace to the world of Western consumerism and its temptations. Teenagers in jeans and body-hugging clothes have become Leg 2.increasingly common. Discos are no longer a rarity. Drug addiction is slowly creeping in.

The construction boom and prospects for a cash income have attracted young people to the capital city of Thimpu, a sleepy town until only very recently.

Kinga Yeshi, 24, is one of the newcomers. ``Things are so expensive in the city,'' lamented Yeshi, who is from Lhuantshi, some 500km from Thimpu. ``The rent is so high and jobs are hard to find. If I cannot make it here, I might have to go back to my hometown and be a farmer like my parents.''

Like many youths who now take what they see on satellite TV as the way to live, his dreams are elsewhere.

``I'd like to go to work overseas if I could,'' he confided. ``I'd like to work and send home money because the cost of living is so high and life is so difficult here.''

That is what Nedub Dorji, 24, did. He spent six years as an illegal worker in a factory in Japan. And he said he would do it again if he could.

With the money he sent home for safe-keeping, he now owns the van he drives for tourists to make a living. He would never have been able to have his own business had he not taken the risk of working in Japan, he said.

``Money is very important,'' he said decidedly. ``No one believes your word if you don't have money. No one helps you.''

The prime minister, for one, looks at the rapid changes engulfing Bhutanese youngsters philosophically.

``The influences from the outside world is our reality. We must take it in stride. We cannot prevent change. We're part of that world and we have to accept it. But we hope that through proper education, people can decide what is good or bad and make their own intelligent choice.''

Striving to balance materialism with spiritual well-being is always a struggle, he said.

``We definitely cannot say that we can achieve it. But it is our goal. Our challenge. In Buddhism, we cannot achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime, but we can keep on trying. As long as the path is clear, we can continue to strive for our goal, step by step.''


His Majesty the King's holistic vision of development has been widely hailed as a beacon that will guide Thailand towards a sustainable path. But what will it take to transform the royal initiatives into a working reality? Before that can happen, there must be not only long-overdue bureaucratic and educational reforms, but also a paradigm shift for each and every one of us

Atiya Chakulwisut
When the newly-graduated teacher, Somboon Seriwesarat, told her relatives she intended to be posted to Phra Saeng district in the southern province of Surat Thani, all of them were horrified. Thirty years ago, the small, remote district could only be reached by a week-long cruise along the circuitous Tapi River. It was no dreamland, either. The young teacher could expect scarcely anything but poverty, hunger and endless hardship.
But after being inspired by news footage showing His Majesty the King boarding a helicopter to help people at Phra Saeng, the then 25-year-old Khru Somboon convinced everyone she could do it.

``If even His Majesty could go to such a harsh and far-away place, why couldn't I?'', she recalled thinking at the time. ``He is the most important person in the Kingdom, but he is taking risks and enduring difficulties to help the poor people. I am just a small person. Why can't I do something good for the country?'' Since her first day at Phra Saeng's small, ramshackle school -- too old and leaky in those days even to provide shelter from the rain -- Khru Somboon has worked tirelessly, persuading children to come to study, raising funds for poor students' lunch, and establishing a public library.

Khru Somboon is now 57 years old. Her dedication has turned the tiny, leaky-roof school into a permanent building, and the number of studentsattending it has increased from fewer than one hundred to seven hundred.
The education she has worked so tirelessly to promote has also provided a firm foundation for the development work that has helped the once forsaken district to transcend its long history of poverty.
Khru Somboon's achievements have been possible because of her understanding and unwavering devotion to the rural development cause championed by the King. Sadly, few Thais have comprehended his ideas as fully as Khru Somboon has, or worked so untiringly to put them into practice.

Dr Sumet Tanti-vejkul, former secretary-general of the Office of the Board of the Royal Development Projects and one of the King's close aides, remarked that when it comes to sustainable development, His Majesty has been a solitary leader.
Why is that so? There is no doubt that the King is Thailand's best-loved guiding light. His vision of self-sufficiency governed by Buddhism, developed after several decades of working to improve the life of poor country people, has been recognised both in Thailand and abroad as wise and insightful -- a much-needed map that the country must follow if it is to survive and prosper.

When it comes to embarking on this crucial journey, however, Thailand does not seem disposed to follow the royal map. Every year, top policy makers gather to listen attentively to the King's insightful birthday speeches. But instead of taking the wisdom they contain to heart and steering the country along the course he envisions, these politicians and bureaucrats direct their efforts in the opposite direction in conformity with the profits-first modernisation paradigm that Thailand has followed during the past several decades, and which eventually led to the 1997 economic crash.

In the deep gloom that followed that disaster, the King, in his 1998 birthday speech, once
again offered a ray of hope with his message of self-sufficiency and its curative properties. It caught on quickly with the public. It is no exaggeration to say that now most Thais know it by heart.
``It is not important to be an economic tiger,'' the King said. ``What matters is that we have enough to eat and to live. Self-sufficient economy will provide us just that. It h elps us to stand on our own and produce enough for our consumption.'' Everybody loves and respects the King. Many agree that His Majesty could not be more right about self-sufficient economy as a step towards a balanced development that will sustain both human beings and the natural environment. Why, then, is Thailand still aggressively pursuing the same, precarious course of economic growth that sent us into an economic tailspin only a few years ago?

Dr Prawase Wasi, a highly-respected social critic, has noted that the reign of King Rama IX has coincided with a period of enormous transition in Thailand's economy and society. In the half-century since 1946, the year His Majesty ascended to the throne, the country has been radically reshaped by two powerful forces -- modernisation and widespread embracing of materialistic values -- both of which have had their destructive side, leading to the adoption of a money-centred strategy as the national deve lopment paradigm.
As has become increasingly evident, the unbalanced focus on economic expansion pursued by government after government has damaged the fabric of Thai society, creating wealth for a small elite while leaving the rural poor as hungry and discontented as ever. Natural resources were sold and the environment polluted to generate maximum profits in the short term. Throughout this era of increasing imbalance and deterioration, the King has been the sole integrating force of the Kingdom.
``His Majesty was born and raised in Switzerland,'' Dr Prawase said, ``but unlike many western-educated technocrats, who have simply discarded local wisdom for foreign ideas, he has a profound understanding of Thai society. He has gone out to make personal contact with the poor in all parts of the country. His Majesty is well aware of what problems the majority of people are facing.'' Firsthand knowledge, accumulated in the course of His Majesty's countless trips to almost every corner of Thai land, no matter how remote, has shaped the principles that govern the King's approach to rural development: Respect the local landscape and culture. Listen to the people; let them be your teachers. Think far and wide, but remember that its final goal is the well-being of the people. Persuade, never impose. And while pursuing material security, don't forget to strive for an inner peace of mind through spiritual purification.

These messages have been thematic in the King's numerous speeches and in the way in which he has conducted his more than 2,000 royal development projects since taking the throne 53 years ago. In contrast to the state's centralised, uniform approach to solving the problems of the poor, His Majesty emphasises that there is no ready-made formula for development that will suit the needs of everyone, everywhere. Over time, one general guiding concept, distilled after decades of working with the poor in different regions, has come to stand out, the central importance of s elf-reliance as a prerequisite for improvement in the quality of life of the rural poor.
``Developing a country must be done step by step. First, we have to build the fundamentals. The majority of people must have enough to eat and to meet their basic needs,'' the King said in one of his speeches 20 years ago.
The concept of self-reliance goes beyond managing a household or community economy -- producing enough to live on while preserving the integrity of the environment, which is the universal life-support system -- for sustainable living. It is not only a matter of physical health, but also mental balance. The key to self-sufficiency lies in the eradication of greed, in knowing what is enough. ``This does not mean becoming stagnant or shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world.

Self-reliance means ``por yuu, por kin'', or producing enough to feed ourselves. When our stomach is full and our mindattuned to the idea of moderation, we will have the basic requirements for secure living . If we expand outward from this solid base, we will not lose our way easily,'' Dr Prawase explained.

His Majesty's New Theory concept of integrated farm management is in essence a system of managing resources so that villagers have everything they need for domestic consumption right in their back yard. It helps insure farmers against external risks such as a drop in farm prices.

When the goods they produce exceed their household demand, they can sell them to the market, thus proceeding from ``por yuu, por kin'' to ``kin dee, yuu dee'', or ``eat well and live well''.

The King's farsightedness includes his emphasis on agriculture. He realises that farming has more meaning to rural families than an industrial-style system of production. For an agrarian society, farming forms culture. According to Dr Prawase, the King's maintaining a demonstration rice field and rice mill in the compound of Chitralada Palace is a subtle way of sending the message to those in power, who were loud in their cla ims that agriculture would fade as a base for Thailand's production profile. The future, they declared, would be industrialisation. It is unfortunate for Thailand that the resulting fit of materialism, manifested in an economic model based on greed, overpowered good sense. His Majesty's message of slow but stable development was lost on the country's policy makers.

It is interesting to note that the term ``khao jai'' (to understand) in Thai literally means ``to enter one's heart''.

Every new Cabinet has a chance to listen to His Majesty's speeches, with their wise insights into the situation of the nation. But obviously these ideas never  enter their hearts''. Bent on making as much money in as short a time as possible, successive Thai governments have adopted rapid industrialisation and cash-crop monoculture as the national development strategies since the 1960s.
``His Majesty endorses a development approach that is centred on people -- how to empower them and enhance their capacity to stand on their own feet,'' Dr Sumet stressed.
``This course will lead to a more sustainable society but it also takes time. We are not talking about one or two years, but 10 years or even a lifetime. Apparently, the government, or society in general, is not that patient.'' Fast-track growth went down in 1997, causing pain to millions of people, especially those who had no financial safety net.

According to Dr Prawase, the country committed three major mistakes during the past decades. First, we traded our natural resources and the environment for money. Second, we promoted industries based on imported technology. Then, we supplied them with cheap labour, available after the above-mentioned depletion of natural resources. Third, we borrowed money to speculate in a bubble economy.
``These policies all went against the principle of self-reliance that His Majesty has been trying to teach us for so many years,'' Dr Prawase said.

The Yadana Gas Pipeline. Pak Moon Dam. Or Ban Krud Power Plant. All of them stir up a similar train of uneasy memories. During the past few decades, news about conflicts between the government and local people, who reject what the former term a ``development project'' because it is not what they needed, has been increasingly frequent.

Locked into a  state-knows-best'' mentality, the government continues to conceive project after project, often without consulting the local people who will be affected by it, and then impose it on a community they assume to be in need of it. Such undertakings result in a waste of resources and failure to make life any better for the poor majority.
These bureaucrats could have learned a thing or two from their King.
Before initiating a project, His Majesty always studies the place and the people who will be affected carefully. He makes sure of what their real needs are, and then bases his work on scientific research and firsthand knowledge of the landscape and culture.

His Majesty's concern for getting things right is evident in this royal speech: ``When we set out to do development work, we use a flat piece of land as a flat piece of land and a mountain as a mountain. We design our land use planning according to the natural topography. This is because the landscape is far bigger than us. It is more difficult to move the landscape around than to move our self. In this case, our `self' means our body, brain and ideas. Going along with the geography is one principle of development.
``That is not all. There is still a sociological landscape, meaning people's lifestyle and culture. We can't force people to think the way we want them to. We can only give advice based on their way of living.

Most of the time, people do not resist advice. They resist people who seek to re-arrange their geography or society. Development workers of this type run against a wall. They end up hurting themselves while those they attempt to help feel nothing because they are behi nd the wall.
Such a practice is a waste for every party concerned,'' His Majesty said.

Dr Sumet, who has served the King for 19 years, said the first thing His Majesty always does after getting out of the car is ask people a variety of questions: their farm yields, the condition of the soil, the amount of rain or the closest waterway.
``His Majesty often said it is better to work hard first than to be exhausted later, when things do not turn out as planned. He always has his informal public hearing, talking to people for hours on end. If there are people who disagree with his project, then he sets up a committee that includes every stakeholder so that they can talk things through.'' Dr Sumet added that no work will be done unless every party agrees to do it. Some royal projects have actually been put on hold because of a lack of consensus.

The sight of His Majesty sitting on the ground talking to villagers is familiar to most Thais. It is both ironic and significant, therefore, that th e phenomenon of a high-ranking bureaucrat kneeling down to chat with villagers about their livelihood is such a rarity.
Although they are known as civil servants, many bureaucrats think of themselves as the people's masters. They think of rural villagers as backward and passive, unable to initiate anything for themselves. This attitude bars many of them from getting to know the people and whatever needs they might have.

Take the Sajja Omsap savings groups as an example. Initiated by the government in the 1980s to solve the problem of rural poverty, the informal credit union was forced on villagers in many provinces. A product of the centralised bureaucracy, the credit union came with a number of preset rules and regulations. Most are inflexible and do not respond well to the living conditions and needs of the local people.
Predictably, most of the savings groups attracted only a handful of members and soon teetered on the verge of collapse.
The situation could not have been more different when the idea was taken up by local leaders. Recognising the shortcomings of state-imposed policies, the villagers took a democratic approach. Members have a say in formulating all the rules governing their communal savings. Some groups even decided they would not deposit the savings with commercial banks since it is more profitable and useful to lend it among members.
Instead of collateral, most groups opt for adhering to a personal vow of honesty, and to peer pressure, to safeguard against embezzlement and fraud.
``Given that the community is close-knit, the social punishment is harsher and thus can be more effective than the threat of legal action,'' said Khru Chop Yodkaew, a former school headmaster who led a very successful savings group in Songkhla province.
His group, which started operation in 1984, has a mutual fund of several million baht, from which members can draw in time of need.

Needless to say, the grassroots-based saving groups expanded rapidly.
Before long, most began to establish welfare funds for members. The Klong Pia group, for example, has a training fund for housewives and scholarships for children of members.

Another credit union in Trat province, meanwhile, sets aside a certain amount for funerals and emergency.
``The villagers' groups succeed because we are directly involved in the activity,'' Khru Chob said. ``Fewer rules mean fewer wrongs. The bureaucracy has to issue a lot of regulations because it is afraid of being cheated.
``In practice, however, those bent on abusing the system can get around them. The rules, therefore, end up obstructing people who wish to do the job well. They end up blocking people's initiatives, forcing them to conform to the status quo.'' Khru Chob added that he was inspired by the King. His Sajja savings group is firmly based on self-sufficiency, the concept of sharing and the importance of maintaining one's honour in the form of a vow given to the group.

Khru Chob said that a reform is necessary if t he bureaucracy is to fulfil its role of serving the people. ``The red tape choke the system,'' he said. ``It is like a tree in a pot. There comes a point where it can't grow any further. When that happens, it is time to break the pot and transplant the tree.'' Into the fertile and unconfined ground where grasses take root and people really live, perhaps.

From 1984 to 1994, Thailand actively promoted market-oriented, export-led policies in pursuit of the Newly Industrialised Country (NIC) status. In terms of figures, the strategy seemed to work. The country's economy grew at an annual rate of 8.2 percent, outperforming even the ``tiger'' economy of South Korea.
This steep economic take-off, which nose-dived soon afterwards, was fuelled largely by depleting the country's natural resources and degrading its environment. The forest cover shrunk from 53 percent in 1961 to less than 20 percent at present.
The loss of forest land, essential to the livelihood of many o f the rural poor, has triggered a chain reaction that has created such related problems as soil erosion, desertification, and migration, unemployment, and perennial poverty among the population. Reforestation, therefore, is one of His Majesty's priorities. And just having planted a lot of trees does not mean the task is accomplished.

For the King, reforestation necessitates a thorough understanding of how different elements, both natural and human, interact. Based on this knowledge, a regeneration programme is designed.
``Some people wonder why I became interested in irrigation or forestry,'' His Majesty said in one of his speeches 30 years ago. ``I remember that when I was 10 years old, a science teacher, who is now dead, taught me about soil conservation. We had to write: `There must be forest on the mountain or the rain will erode the soil and damage the mountain surface.' ``This is a fundamental fact of the conservation of soil and forest as well as of irrigation. If we fail to main tain the highland forest, we will be in a lot of trouble, ranging from soil erosion to sedimentation in dams and in rivers, which lead to floods. I have understood this relationship since I was 10.'' His is a middle path between the forestry officials' clear-cutting an area and planting the same kind of trees in neat rows in a tree-farming fashion, and the deep ecologists' total reliance on nature and leaving things to regenerate themselves.
``Never peel the land,'' His Majesty told officials from the Office of the Board of the Royal Development Projects in connection with reforestation techniques. ``Don't plough the soil surface off the way it was done earlier. It depletes the fertile top soil. That way, the survival rate of seedlings is very low. Up to 80 percent of them die.'' His Majesty also cautioned against the application of weed killers or herbicides. Never, ever, use these chemicals, he warned, because they are extremely dangerous. The toxic substance will be left in the soil f or a very long time.

Contrary to forestry officials' continued rejection of human/forest co-existence, the King has emphasised the importance of people in conserving the forest. Before growing trees on land, he believes, we must first grow an awareness in people's hearts.
The King also incorporates people's awareness of their own needs, and their traditional knowledge, in forest replanting initiatives. Villagers who have lived in an area for generations know where they should farm and where they should conserve the trees.
According to His Majesty, reforestation projects should focus on three types of useful trees. First, fuel wood, such as krathin thepa, for household use. The availability of this wood would prevent villagers from cutting down trees in the wild. Second, fruit-bearing trees, such as mangoes, for consumption. And finally, trees that have commercial value like yang na or teak. Villagers can use or sell them as construction materials.

``What His Majesty tries to do is to revive the ecology through attention to the interdependence between soil, water, and forest,'' said Kriengsak Hongto, director of the Khao Hin Son Royal Development Study Centre in the eastern province of Chachoengsao.
``Water is particularly important. It is a life-giving force. The King always told us that we have to reforest the highland so that it acts as a water storage resource for us.'' As the first among six study centres or ``living museums'' the King set up in different regions, the Khao Hin Son site demonstrates royal effort at nursing barren, near-desert soil into a green, arable land.

Apart from being a one-stop educational service for farmers, the living museums are the King's attempt to show government officials -- who are usually focused narrowly in their assigned areas and immersed in inter-agency rivalry, a situation which results in redundant work and a waste of resources -- how to work together in harmony.
Instead of breaking a task into independent bits and pieces, he demonstrates how everything in nature is interrelated so that every agency involved, whether its central concern is forestry, community development, or irrigation, must complement the work of the other units to complete it successfully.
A Forestry Department official himself, Mr Kriengsak admitted it was not easy at first to put aside the bureaucracy's ingrained reductionistic approach and embrace His Majesty's holistic and functional strategy.
``I was a bit confused at first. In revitalising the land, the government always endorses a fast formula -- putting in chemical herbicide and fertiliser -- while the King insisted on reducing chemical input and growing many kinds of trees to create diversity,'' Mr Kriengsak said.
He added that, in contrast to the government's capital-intensive approach, the King champions the use of appropriate technology that is easily adaptable by people whose financial resources are very limited.
Mr Kriengsak asserted that the government must revamp its infle xible year-to-year budgetary system and evaluation criteria if it is to fulfil the royal initiatives. He said that apart from the notorious red tape involved -- filling in 10 forms in order to reimburse a 10-baht expenditure -- the official budget system does not mesh with His Majesty's long-term goal of ecological resuscitation.

``sometimes, the results of His Majesty's work can't even be measured in tangible terms. How can you fix a specific value to revived soil, a regenerated forest, or social improvement? Helping people so that they have hope and an occupation and stopping them from resorting to crime to obtain an income all bring enormous benefits, but these things can't be quantified in a way that convinces the bureaucracy of their value,'' Mr Kriengsak said.

According to Dr Prawase, the state has sufficient resources to bring about improvement in Thailand, but it will have to radically change its approach. Instead of compartmentalising work, the government must focus on community.
Apart from revamping the year-to-year budgetary system, which does not answer the needs of long-term development, he feels that the government must adjust its evaluation criteria to gain a proper perspective on such intangible yet crucial achievements and improved well-being for the people, or ecological stability.
``At a deeper level, a shift to less superficial shared values is necessary before sustainability can ever occur,'' he said. ``Purely materialistic goals will always undermine self-sufficiency at the social level. Even if the bureaucratic reform so urgently needed were to take place, that alone would not be enough.
``As His Majesty the King has consistently stressed, change must come from within. To attain sustainability, every part of the society must move along in unison towards the common goal.'' Dr Prawase believes that only if a series of social reforms takes place can the royal visions come true. These include a serious attempt to promote self-suffic iency and initiate reforms in the areas of macro-economics, governance, education, the media, and the law.

Dr Prawase feels that, if the King's ultimate goal is to empower people and thereby create a civil society, it can only be achieved if every social unit, from large organisations down to individual citizens, is capable of taking care of itself. ``It is said that a good society isn't something you can buy ready-made,'' he said. ``If you want one, you have to build it. Many people think that, as individuals, they are powerless.
This is not true. Each of us can make changes by joining with others and working on issues that concern us. Then, we can create a network among different groups, and once these structures are established, they will have power to influence national policies.'' He added that the government does not need to invest money to foster the development of the civil society. What it can do is allow people to use the space it controls, such as temples or schools, so that t hey have places to gather and discuss problems and what can be done about them.

Dr Sumet takes a similar view, stressing that the force that can bring people to the better state envisioned by the King flows from each individual.
``Take self-sufficiency, for example. Many people misunderstand that it applies exclusively to farmers. In fact, His Majesty provides guidance for everyone. Self-sufficiency means a good livelihood. It means living simply, in a way that is not harmful to other beings.
This is something everyone of us can begin practising immediately to fulfil His Majesty's vision.''

Oh, I know I said two articles, but while looking for the 2nd one I saw this also. I want to add it also as perhaps it show parents how they can bring up children to follow the above paths. Princess Sirindhorn certainly does and is much loved by the Thai people for her efforts. Sorry, I know it makes this a long travelpod, but you don't have to read it all at once.

In her latest book, Duj Duang Tawan, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn shares personal anecdotes that give insight into His Majesty the King's commitment to education and information to improve the lives of the rural poor -- a shining example of a dedicated monarch. Here are excerpts.
His Majesty the King is interested in various fields of knowledge. He is a thinker and inventer who can explain his thoughts to others. He is a good teacher himself.
Often when he goes out to meet the people, he advises those who come to welcome him on various matters such as the preservation of watersheds and farming.
From my experience, an example of His Majesty's qualities as a teacher could be seen during a trip upcountry many years ago.

I was about seven or eight years old at the time and we were travelling in the same car. On the way, he taught me and my brother and sister how to determine the travelling time by calculating the distance and speed. He also taught us about the topography and at night he taught us about stars in the sky.

One day I teased people in the entourage by asking them how many grains of rice there were in a sack. Nobody answered. When His Majesty heard about this he had somebody fetch him a litre of rice and made me agree that the result of that calculation would be an estimate.
He told me to fill a cup with the rice to see how many cups it took for the whole litre. After that he told me to count the rice grains in the cup and multiply that by the number of cups I just got. The result was the number of rice grains in one litre.
Then I had to multiply that by the number of litres in one thang (a traditional unit for measuring rice). And multiply the result with the number of thang in one sack. What I got at the end was the number of rice grains in the sack.

That was the first time I learned to do estimate calculation.

A few years later when I had to study maths and do the exercises from the Education Ministry's text book, which were all similar to one another, I became bored and didn't pay much attention to the subject, claiming I didn't see any use for it in real life.
His Majesty cured my laziness by giving me just two maths exercises to do during the following summer break which lasted almost three months.

The first exercise was about water buckets which I was familiar with because the Hua Hin district where we spent the holidays was pretty arid and the buckets were necessary items.
Every time the Royal Medic Squad went out to visit villages we would gather money to buy buckets for the villagers. In the exercise, I had to calculate from the number of donated buckets the amount of water people used each day and the amount of rainfall.
To make it worse, it was assumed that the buckets had holes. There was simply no answer to this exercise.

The other exercise was about the income and expenses of a family which is rather poor. Despite the fact that the children of this family receive royal scholarships and some financial aid, they still have a hard time making ends meet.

One day, a member of the family became sick and, worse still, their house was hit by a heavy storm which damaged the roof. The family had to borrow money from a loan shark to buy corrugated iron and have their roof repaired. This exercise, too, had no definite answer. But it helped me learn about the prices of food and things because I had to find out the real prices from the market. I couldn't make them up.

From then on I no longer complained about studying mathematics.

As for geography, instead of just letting me learn it from books, His Majesty encouraged me to compare the landscape with the map. Clouds too. He taught me with real clouds in the sky, not just their names in the book. He didn't do this just with his children. He wants every Thai to have the chance to study. And this determination of his is evident in the
"Rongrian Phra Dabos" project.
- From the article titled "Rongrian Phra Dabos" in A Compilation of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's Writings, Bangkok Bank, 1978, page 185-7.


The Phra Dabos project (initiated by His Majesty the King in 1976) is basically a kind of non-formal education.

There are lots of people in the society who are equipped with useful knowledge but these people don't have enough money to open a school of their own. At the same time, they don't want to work with the government. But they're ready to pass on what they know to others.
His Majesty said that the idea of the Phra Dabos project is like that of the Phra Dabos (hermits) in folktales. In the old days, anybody seeking knowledge would go into the woods to stay with the Phra Dabos, serve them and learn from them.

His Majesty said that even these days, there are still people who are glad to be Phra Dabos. We should provide them with the facilities and food they need, like creating a forest for them.

Meanwhile, children who come to study should have moral responsibilities so the relationship between the teacher and the children will be good.
The most concrete field of study so far is electronics and a few other subjects. Students who have finished the course can study further in a related field. Many have managed to use the knowledge to earn themselves a living.
- From HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's interview with Prof Pairash Thajchayapong, on May 12, 1995, on His Majesty the King and information technology, at the Chaipattana Building in the Chitralada Palace.


His Majesty told me about how HRH the Princess Mother used to teach him how to do research. And she did research herself, too. The Princess Mother told him that whenever her children had questions about things, she would try to find the answers. So she bought an encyclopedia for the whole family to use.

Later, His Majesty wanted to have that kind of encyclopedia produced for Thai people, in Thai.

He said that at that time, we — the children — were still of school age. The older child could teach the younger one. So he had them produced in three levels.
The High Level is for older children and grownups who do not have specialised knowledge in those subjects.

The other two levels are Intermediate and Younger Kids.

Actually, it's not easy to explain complicated subjects in language young children can understand. But that was made possible with the help of several people. They've been working on the project for 20 to 30 years, producing one encyclopedia after another.
The encyclopedia compiles academic information in one place to make it easy to look up.
I'd like to cite a few parts of a speech His Majesty made to the committee in 1974:
"Again, we can conclude the purpose of encyclopedias: They're books that include all the knowledge humans have gathered since ancient times, processing it for later generations.
"Normally, this knowledge is learned at schools or educational institutions. But due to the lack of teachers and schools, there needs to be a source of knowledge where people could learn by themselves, or from relatives and friends who know more. Knowledge could be passed on from one person to another without having to be gained through school."

And here's a bit more from the speech.
"The purpose of this encyclopedia is to point out to readers and users that all sciences are related. It's not that a person who is specialised on one particular field can work completely on their own. Furthermore, it shows that to succeed, everybody must depend on another person — one science is completed by another science.
"In short, it's education for underprivileged children and a conjunction of all sciences."
- From a speech titled "Education and National Development" given on November 7, 1995, at Sri Nakarindwirot University, Bangkok.


Their Majesties are very good at recognising people. They also remember what should be done for every single person. His Majesty has it all recorded in his head.
Other people can't remember such things and when they ask how His Majesty manages to do so, he says that if we care, we remember. When we care for people, love them and wish to help them find happiness, we think about them.
Hearing this, I felt like I'm the one who does not love the people and does not want them to be happy. And I felt guilty. So I had to find ways to compete with him (she laughs), to serve him. That's why I got to work on this database.
Actually, the truth is we wanted to do this, not him. He could remember it without any help.
- From HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's interview with Prof Pairash Thajchayapong, on May 12, 1995, on His Majesty the King and information technology, at the Chaipattana Building in the Chitralada Palace.


As for rural development, especially in remote and dangerous places, Their Majesties the King and Queen always cover all areas of life.

They would start by getting themselves accustomed to the villagers and trying to gain their trust. That is not so difficult for them because most people regard His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen as their father and mother who can help them solve problems and lessen their hardship. Whatever they say, people listen.

In areas where communication is lacking, His Majesty would put an emphasis on people's self-sufficiency — enabling them to rely on external factors as little as possible, especially for rice. Everybody must eat rice. We've got to do everything that gives farmers enough rice to eat.

Also, we've got to make sure there are markets for their products so they have the money to buy the necessities they can't produce. Buying consumer goods is wasteful because you have pay prices that include transportation and service costs. So people should try to grow their own rice.

It is also important that the people enjoy good health and that patients get proper medical care. Sickness causes a lot of problems. Some people lose everything they have to pay the hospital bills.

We've also got to give the people the chance to have an education. At least they should be literate and able to read official documents to gain knowledge about new technologies. This is difficult in some remote areas. At some places, even though schools are available, students cannot go to school because they cannot afford to pay for the text books. Despite the fact that primary education is compulsory and free of charge. Some students have to work and some live too far away from school.
- HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn during an interview on Development and Aid to Rural Villagers, given to the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board in 1985.


The reason I like to help people is, I guess, because I'm used to it.

Ever since I was young, I've seen that His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother were always busy trying to find ways to help better the living conditions of the Thai people.

Following him around, I have witnessed the hardship my compatriots are facing. That makes me feel I should help with whatever I could. I shouldn't be idle. So when I grew up and had the ability to help, I just did it automatically, following His Majesty's instructions and guidelines.

Anyway, to help the people is a duty of the royal family. Besides, helping those who are in trouble is in accordance with Buddhist teachings. Merit-makers achieve happiness from giving, which is a merit.

One more thing — I always feel that being royalty is a privilege. I get trust, help, knowledge and all kinds of cooperation. Dealing with people is also made easy. It's a hereditary benefit for the family whose ancestors have done good deeds for the country. The benefits fall on their children and grandchildren. So we should use this privilege for the good of other people.
- HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn during an interview on Development and Aid to Rural Villagers, given to the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board in 1985.


Prof Pairash: Does His Majesty use a computer?
HRH: Yes, he does. He uses it everyday. And when he composes a song he doesn't use a ready-made music programme. He does it with an ordinary, basic one.
...These days when he writes stories he always writes them on a computer. But before he actually writes a long story he would first make up some short stories as experiments.
...Another thing he does with the computer is drawing. He doesn't use any modern software, but an old one. I don't know how he does it. He does it by himself. Like when he wrote the Phra Mahajanaka book, he also drew the picture of Phra Mahajanaka swimming while Nang Manee Mekhala flies towards him.

When drawing a map (for the book), he didn't use any map-making programme, either. He drew a map of India. And from what was said in the Jataka tale, he worked out where the places mentioned should be; like where Phra Mahajanaka swam, and where each character in the story travelled.

He plotted the places on a modern map. Then he got out the meteorological map and figured out what the weather would have been like on that day. He compared the situation to what happened when a fierce storm swept fishermen over to Bangladesh. He said the weather must have been like that.

He then compared different positions of the sun and the moon. Everything that he converted from the Jataka into modern-day terms, he typed on the computer.
He also writes his new songs on the computer. Songs like Pleng Rak and Menu Khai he did on the computer.

When typing letters or any other document, he does it on the computer himself. Also, he uses it to write speeches for different occasions, like the royal speech on December 4. After he finishes writing those speeches, he translates them into English himself and types the translated version on the computer. Now he is writing an autobiography. I have no idea how far he has gone. I've never seen it. But he writes it on the computer.
- From HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's interview with Prof Pairash Thajchayapong, on May 12, 1995, on His Majesty the King and information technology, at the Chaipattana Building in the Chitralada Palace.


His Majesty is interested in information and the filing of information. He gathers and files information he has, not on the computer, but in conventional files which he keeps in different categories. He's been doing this for a long time.
He told me that he has taught his filing system to Khun Khwankeo (Grand Chamberlain Khwankeo Vajarodaya) who now does the work for him.

If anybody asks Khun Khwankeo about His Majesty's royal duties during the early years of his reign, he'll find that Khun Kwankaew has all that information carefully filed. There are details about public health, the royal visits to the

United States and Europe in 1960, for example. Also, there are photographs taken by His Majesty's private photographers. Each of them is numbered in order to make it easy to retrieve . That's also a system he has set up.
- From the speech titled "Information Technologies Beneficial to the National Development" given by HRH Princess Sirindhorn on June 2, 1995, at the United Nations's convention centre in Bangkok.
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