The Boiling Black Songkran

blacksongkran

Looking at the heat via the Intertube

The riot in Thailand has spoiled Thai New Year, Songkran celebration. The crash caused the cancellation of ASEAN Summit in Pattaya. Red Shirt occupied main traffic routes in Bangkok, the state of emergency was declared and the military was ordered by the Government to get the city back to order. That did not help them over the accusation of being backed by the military. However, the situation has been dissolved, for now. The Government won the battle, this time.

Outside Thailand, I watch the colourful event turned black only from my laptop. Streaming live from Thai television networks and twitter updated me. The story was recapped by the major networks on YouTube as well as raw footage from people on the ground. The word democracy was over used. It struck the most me when the representatives from the both sides had their chances on live interview with foreign journalists and they blew it.

It looks like they have no idea how fierce BBC, CNN or Al Jazeera can be to get what they what to know. They do their homework and can attack you as a lightning. It is their job to nail you on the spot. If you cannot get away with it, you become a fool on the global scale rather than spread your agenda.

Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is ahead on this game. His British academic background helps him get through foreign media. On the contrary, Thaksin Shinawatra, the key figure of this political turmoil, and anti-government protest leaders sound shaky and unconvincing. They just cannot buy any creditability of their actions when they speak to the professional interviewers.

However, Gile Ungpakorn, who is also in exile for Lese Majeste charge, gives us the most concrete ground on Red Shirt movement.

It is inevitable that Thailand is in the international community and the nation economy almost entirely depends on exports, foreign investment and tourism. Who will be the front face of the country to deal with the international diplomats and media? Could Thailand afford to have the one who looks like in self-denial run the country whichever what colour they are?

Sydney Songkran 08

13-15 April is Songkran Festival, traditional Thai New Year. Thai community in Sydney has the celebration called Thailand Grand Festival in Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour. Last year I explored the Buddhist ceremony and the entertainments on stage. This year is pretty much the routine with merit making and blessing in the morning then stage shows in the afternoon. No Aboriginal welcoming protocol has a presence here, just the Premier representative. Do we need a black fella to officially open every single event in Australia or, at least, just an acknowledgement?

The best improvement this year must be Singha Beer tent and the promotion girls are willing to table serve the customers while gulping some beer with her friends along the way. It feels like home. Of course, there are loads of food. Many of them you cannot find in typical Thai restaurants in Sydney. Other than that is largely tourism promotion.

The hi-light performance would be Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre. Unfortunately, the show has to stop due to the rain. The best Thai attitude is still applied here by stating it is the shower of the angels even though everything is on hold for a while. Nevertheless, when weather is clear, the event continues and the crowd is back again despite of the soggy ground.

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I would like to use the word Songkran on this post which unofficially unannounced in the event. It is the best we can get on such a special occasion away from home in Sydney.

Thailand Grand Festival 2007

Thai community in Sydney is celebrating their New Year culture, Songkran, at Thailand Grand Festival 2007 at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour on 15th April. Buddhist ceremony has been conducted in the morning. It is time for entertainment in the afternoon. However, unlike in Thailand, no water is not traditionally flushed away. Stage performances line up to please the crowd.

Ribbon Minister

Minister of Juvenile Justice & Minister of Western Sydney, Barbara Perry, opening the Festival.

Thai Hospitality Thai Hospitality

Thai reception girls.

Thai Music Thai Music Thai Music Thai Music

Thai classical music by the Bangkok Octave band of BTCL School.

Decoration

Thai mobile flower decoration.

Phonleb Phonleb Phonleb

Thai traditional dance performance, Phonleb (ฟ้อนเล็บ).

Khun-In

Contemporary Thai musid performance by Khun-In.

Nohrah-Malagus Nohrah-Malagus

Thai traditional dance performance, Nohrah-Malagus (โนราห๋-มาลากัส), by Thai Classical Group.

Fun

A Thai man dancing with fun.

Heritage Heritage Heritage Heritage Heritage

Fashion show, The Heritage of Thailand.

For the King

People wearing yellow shirts to pay respect to the King of Thailand.

Thai New Year Buddhist Ceremony

The biggest event of the year in Thailand has to be Songkran Festival, Thai New Year celebration. Anyone who has been to Thailand during the event must know how crazy it is there. Thai community here in Sydney celebrates its the occasion mildly. Officially, the word Songkran is not used at Thailand Grand Festival 2007 at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour on 15th April. Traditionally, the key element of the event is about water: drizzling light perfume on a Buddha image, pouring water onto elders’ palms and water fight on the streets. It would be very messy and not look good if City of Sydney allowed water to be flushed away during the water crisis in Australia and it is hard to call Songkran without water taking part. A part from that, the organiser, Radio Thailand-Stage Management, tries to keep the community feels at home and interested Sydneysiders get amazed by having a Buddhist ceremony in the morning, stage entertainment in the afternoon and Thai food and craft all day long.

The day begins with the people gathering in front of the Buddha then Buddhist monks arrive and settle on the ceremonial stage. Led by the Master of Ceremony, they pray, chant and meditate. Although they have to strive for meditation in the strong sunny morning.

The Buddha

The Main Buddha Image

The Main Buddha Image

The Monks

Monks and the City

Monks leading the ceremony.

Camera Monk

A monk and a camera man in the Buddhist ceremony. The new Thai Consul-General is in the middle of the frame under the shade of a rainbow camera.

Prayers

Praying monks in the Buddhist ceremony.

Dhamakaya

A monk’s belongings: an alms-bowl and an offering-cloth. The the text in Thai and the graphic is Dhamakaya Foundation. They are a reformed Buddhism movement in Thailand.

The Followers

Pranom Pranom

People during the Buddhist ceremony.

The Offerings

One of the core practices in Theravada Buddhism is about merit-making and giving seems to be the easiest way for lay people to achieve the sake of next life. After the meditation session, the monks come off the stage to the people and grant them the chance to give their offerings.

Packaging

Food prepared as the offerings to the monks.

Interacting

The joy of give and take.

Collecting

Piles of food that has been offered to the monks.

The Worship

The morning ceremony is over. Some Buddhist traditions are in service in the afternoon.

Two Buddhas

After the Buddhist ceremony, the main Buddha image is moved inside Tumbalong Park.

Buddha Bath

Thai New Year tradition, bathing a Buddha image.

Revere

The main Buddha image for the crowd to come over and pay respect.

Thai community is one of many ethnic groups in the multicultural Sydney. The religious ceremony plays the essential role in the event and in reflecting their identity. The other parts are entertainments and socialising which we will be looking at them in the next post.

‘Pong

Retro

Still feeling lonesome in this Songkran Festival, old gang of mine having a party out of Bangkok, green. Looking at Rage play list celebrating its 20th birthday involves 1992-1996 period. Many clips I have not seen for yonks and many for the first time here because back then music channel in Thailand was different from Rage. Tonight this Aussie music programs has blown me away with their choices of the time and my mixed feeling of nostalgia.