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 Home > About Thailand > Her Majesty The Queen Sirikit > Support

Her Majesty The Queen Sirikit


The dedication to public service exemplified by King Bhumibol Adulyadej's life is also found in other members of the Royal Family, who consist of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Royal Children, Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother, and the King's sister Princess Galyani Vadhana. Like His Majesty, all these work untiringly for the benefit of the country, sometimes participating in projects initiated by the King and sometimes in others of their own; in doing so all have contributed significantly to the creation of Thailand's modern monarchy.

Queen Sirikit spends as much time travelling as her husband, equally indifferent to discomforts and long hours, and her interest in the welfare of rural people closely parallels his. An area in which she has taken a particularly deep interest in that of finding sources of supplementary income in the off-season or when crops are destroyed by droughts or floods. It was to combat such problems that the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Techniques (known as SUPPORT) was established in 1976 under Her Majesty's royal patronage, partly through funds supplied by Her Majesty and partly with public donations.

SUPPORT's primary objective is to set up women's groups and provide rural Thai women with equipment, materials, and training in cottage industries. The latter include some 18 traditional crafts which Her Majesty felt were worthy of being promoted on both local and world markets, among them embroidery and weaving in the north, a kind of ikat silk called matmi in the northeast, doll and rattanware making in the central region, and yan lipao, basketry woven of a strong indigenous vine, in the south. These are marketed through a chain of Chitralada Shops in Thailand and through department stores abroad. Most of the crafts are indigenous to the areas where the projects have been set up and use readily available raw materials, thus making it easier for families to acquire a second source of income for basic necessities when emergencies arise.

Besides individual projects in various parts of the country, SUPPORT has established two multi-craft training centers. One is in the compound of Chitralada Villa, where around 200 students attend classes taught by masters of particular crafts; the other, founded in 1980, is the Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center, located on the Choa Phraya River near the old capital of Ayutthaya, which has an enrollment of around 300. At both students are given a daily allowance, travelling expenses, and extra pay for the crafts they produce; after training they return to their villages to pass on the skills to others.

The Queen has personally undertaken the promotion of these crafts through trips abroad to meet potential buyers and also by using them prominently in her own wardrobe; mudmee, for example, which was once hardly known outside the region where it was made, is now regarded as one of the most fashionable dress materails in Thailand and it was also featured in a collection by the French designer Pierre Balmain. The Queen's interest in handicraft development led to the celebration of the Thailand Arts and Crafts Year, held from August 12, 1988 to December 31, 1989, which featured a wide variety of exhibitions, demonstrations, and other events under the auspices of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

For her work among rural women, Queen Sirikit was awarded the prestigious Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, bringing international recognition to an achievement already well-known to countless Thais who have benefitted from it. In 1988, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in Great Britain's 470-year-old Royal College of Physicians, the highest honor the college confers, for her "deep concern for the health and welfare of thepeople of Thailand."

The Queen's efforts on behalf of the less fortunate members of society have also extended to the refugees from Indochina who have come to Thailand in such large numbers since the late 1970's. Similar handicraft training projects have been set up in the Kao Larn Red Cross Camp for women with young children, enablingthem to produce goods and earn money while awaiting resettlement. Members of the northern hill tribes have benefitted as well and many are attending SUPPORT centers, where they are given new ideas to use in such traditional skills as embroidery and jewelry-making.

Sharing the King's concern over the destruction of the natural environment, Queen Sirikit is an active member of the World Wildlife Fund (Thailand) and has worked for years on behalf of conservation of forest areas as a part of watershed development and as a means of helping perserve wild animals, especially those in danger of extinction. To this end, she has actively lent her support to an afforestation project on the northeast, Thailand's most arid region, and has worked closely with concerned people to protect wildlife habitats.

Despite her deep involvement in these projects, as well as other responsibilities which include numerous royal ceremonies and serving as Colonel-in-Chief of the 21st Royal Guards Infantry Regiment, Her Majesty has also found the time to be an attentive mother, passing on to her children the same dedication to public service that has characterized the reign.

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