05/14/2013, 00.00
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The Thai monarchy celebrates rice, engine of the national economy

by Weena Kowitwanij
Ploughing Ceremony Day was held yesterday in the Royal Palace, a festival of hope for a plentiful harvest. The cereal is one of the most important national products and is one of the symbols of tradition. Buddhist religious: "It is a national glory". Environmentalist warns: safeguard nature to preserve crops.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Now world leader in exports, after the recently overtaking India, Thailand is celebrating its most famous product: rice. The cereal is the staple diet of many nations in the world, particularly in Asia.  In the land of the elephants it is almost as revered as deities, to the extent that His Majesty Bhumibol Adulayadej,  has a special space reserved for its cultivation inside the Royal Palace. Yesterday Ploughing Ceremony Day was celebrated throughout the country, which marks the beginning of cultivation, coinciding with the start of the rainy season.

Celebrating rice is one way for Thaisto preserve the tradition, culture and the ties among citizens, as is clearly seen from initiatives launched by the royal house. Marking the festival, the king presided over the distribution of 300 thousand small pockets of rice, distributed to farmers, who will mix them in with the rest of their seeds for sowing, as a good omen for a fruitful and plentiful harvest.

The ceremony began with a Buddhist ritual prayer of blessing, extending best wishes to farmers, staunch defenders of a tradition threatened by the capitalist policies, pollution and new educational and productive systems.

The Buddhist monk Phra Maha-Wuthichai stresses that "rice is a glory ... and it is the very soul of the Thai people." This is echoed by the Director of the National Department of Agriculture Chuck-krit who recalls that "in the past, peasants worshiped God before sowing" so that their rice would grow healthy and lush. Gavin Kenny, environmentalist expert on climate and sustainable agriculture, adds that "the Thai people must be aware of the importance of the natural resource at their disposal" and to preserve it, they must pay attention "to the land, to water sources, forests and plantations" . And to do this is to pay attention to climate change and "block the use of chemical fertilizers" that are harmful in the long run.

The massive production of the crop is also the result of policies promoted by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has encouraged the strengthening of the revenues of farmers. Analysts and policy experts point out that the vote of the Thai farmers was crucial to the victory of the Pheu Thai Party in the general election of 2011, as in the past in the electoral successes of her brother Takhsin: now the prime minister wants to reciprocate the support of her electoral base .


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