15,000 miles from Altai to Thailand
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has organized a trip for a group of Thais to drive from the Altai Mountains in northwestern China to Thailand, with a mission to bring soil and rose plants to be planted in Ayutthaya in honour of HM the Queen’s 80th birthday this month.
Poster ‘Amazing Thailand under the royal sky: 15,000 miles from Altai to Suvarnabhumi’ by the Tourism Authority of Thailand
On 18 July, Somchai Chomphunoi, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for the Central Region, led a group of 12 Thais on a flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Guangzhou. After a couple of connecting flights they reached Altai city in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region a day later.
The main objective of the activity, which has received the cooperation of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Embassy in Thailand, is to collect soil and 80 rose plants from 8 main cities in China, to be planted in the rose garden at the Clock Tower in Honour of HM the Queen's 80th Birthday at the Monument of Loyalty in Ayutthaya.
On 20 July, they received the soil and rose plants from Chinese officials in an official ceremony held in front of the Altai City Hall, and set off on their long journey in a caravan of cars.
On 4 Aug, the caravan reached Chengdu in Sichuan province in western China, according to the TAT website on 6 Aug.
The Altai region was proposed by Khun Wijitmatra in his book ‘Lak Thai’ published in 1928 as the origin of the Thai people who, as a result of being constantly invaded by the Chinese, had to migrate south over thousands of years to finally reach Thailand. (Note: ‘Khun’ here is the title for a low-ranking Thai bureaucrat before the overthrow of the Absolute Monarchy in 1932, and is not the same as คุณ meaning ‘Mr, Mrs, Ms’ in contemporary Thai.)
Khun Wijitmatra supported the proposal of William Clifton Dodd, an American missionary who conducted surveys in northern Thailand, Burma’s Shan state, and Yunnan and Guangxi provinces in China in the early 1900s and published the book ‘The Tai Race : The Elder Brother of the Chinese’. This stated that the Thais were descendants of the Mongols and had formed a nation older than the Hebrew and Chinese with its origin in the Altai Mountains; it had subsequently moved to China and Indochina.
Lak Thai book by Khun Wijitmatra (7th edition, 1975)
Although the theory has long been refuted and dismissed, it was officially taught in school and is still believed by several generations of Thais.
“Do the Altai people have anything in common or similar to Sukhothai or Thai people?” some members of the Thai delegation asked the Chinese officials, according to a report on the activity published on the TAT website.
They laughed and said no. “Probably, it was a coincidence of pronouncing ‘Altai’, Sukhothai’, ‘Tai’ or ‘Dai’”, they said, adding that no evidence had ever been found that Thais had migrated from there.
The Monument of Loyalty was built by the Province of Ayutthaya to celebrate the 7th cycle, or 84th Birthday of HM the King.
A Buddha replica was built last year in cement to a height of 9.84 meters: 9 referring to the 9th reign and 84 being HM the King’s age. The base on which the Buddha stands is 84 meters in diameter, and there are 7 steps leading to the Buddha, signifying the 7th cycle.
The 8.4-meter-high wall behind the Buddha contains 9 royal events in bas relief, telling visitors about the King’s activities done for the Ayutthayan people under the theme of ‘Doing good deeds without being seen’.