Category Archives: Yala

Elephant in Betong

I watched the elephant for some time, he was dancing happily!

In Betong, once in a while we will find mahouts bringing their elephants to the town and try to make money from tourists by selling food for the elephant. The last time an elephant came to this town was about half a year ago. I still remember that I was shocked when I saw the elephant and mahout walking along the road on my way to Yala. I was told that they can walk extremely long distance from and back to their original home to make a living. I also learned that an elephant can walk an average of 30km per day!

Lately, we can find an elephant strolling around the streets, brought here by truck by the mahout family of four. They came far away from Surin Province, stopped and stayed in some towns as they moved down South. According to the family, the transportation cost from Surim to Betong was about 30,000Baht. Normally they stayed in each place for about one month. After the excitement about elephant in that town was over, they moved on to another town.

The mahout family and the elephant have been in Betong for about two weeks, working from around five o’clock in the evening when most of the tourists start their night life, till around nine o’clock at night. According to the mahout family, the elephant is inherited from their parents and is already 20 years old. This is the best youth life of an elephant because like human, in both the wild and captivity an elephant is considered old at 60 years old.

During day time, the mahout family prepares the favourite food for the elephant-sugarcane or banana, in their simple and crude rented house. The elephant will be kept in the wide land, not far from the main road. According to them, though they can sell more than 1000bahts of food per day, it is still not enough to satisfy the elephant. However, they are quite easy as the elephant can have free food provided by the wild land.

The mahout family/Food for sale

Few months ago in Betong, there was a tragedy. An elephant while hauling logs, suddenly went out of control and killed a man and then escaped. Some of the roads were closed and people were warned to be alert with the elephant.

Though the elephant is friendly and lovely, I still think it is very dangerous for an elephant to stroll around the town. What if the elephant become emotional, being in an unfamiliar surroundings with people and cars?! Besides, the fact that an elephant produces 50kg of dung a day anywhere is really not hygienic!

Feeding fun/Honey, let’s try!

Kissing my car/The relaxing elephant

Bird Singing Competition

It was a sunny Sunday morning and the road in front of the Betong Police Station was alive with the sound of cheerful birds singing. The birds were in their “luxurious” bird cages which were hung about three meters from the ground. Some of their owners whistled and gestured to encourage their pets to respond with a series of chirps. The entire sight was interesting, each bird was chirping in their own signature singing style. They first spread their wings and dropped their heads low while shaking their body right and left.

That was the scenery of the Bird Singing Competition organized by Betong Police Station and coordinated by Betong Avian Club. The objectives of the event were to improve police-community relationship, to promote tourism and to encourage healthy recreational activities among the people.

The event was unexpectedly overwhelming with more than 550 birds turning up with their owners and there were not enough spaces to hang the cages. It showed that bird breeding is one of the favourite pastimes for the locals, particularly among the Malay populace. In this competition, about 80% of the participants are Malays from all over Yala province.

Birds in their decorated cages

The birds were judged according to how well they ‘sing’ or chirp, stamina in maintaining their vocals and how varied their tunes are. The judge practically counted how many times they chirp in a minute. The judges were very serious in their work. Watching the judges was as interesting as watching the beautiful birds singing their hearts out.

The prizes for the first three positions were refrigerator, washing machine, DVD Player respectively and the other consolation prizes were mainly electrical goods. Normally, winners of prominent bird tournaments will enjoy great prestige. Of course, they also earn thousands of dollars for their owners.

According to the participants, they breed and take care of the birds as their own kids. With the patience of saints, they train their caged darlings to sing and take part in singing competition, hoping the birds will bring them honour and reward. When competition time comes around, every effort is made to ensure that the birds are in their best possible condition. These birds are well looked after by their owners, because they are supposed to be temperamental, just like humans.

I’m not really into song birds. I do enjoy bird singing in the nature. At home, I prefer to be quiet and I am sure I will get pretty annoyed after a few hours of non-stop singing. I will just turn on CD if I need some nice music and if I need to spend so much time and effort to take care of it and please it, I ‘d rather do it to a man…

The crowd/Gentle and caring…

Chief Police of Betong and the people/Live up the event

The 22nd Border Game

The two-days 22nd Hulu Perak-Betong Border Game was successfully concluded on last Sunday afternoon. The occasion was made more auspicious with the presence of Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Perak State, Malaysia, to officiate the opening and closing ceremony.

The first Border Game started in 1984, which was 21 years ago. This is one of the activities by the Malaysia-Thailand Social-economic Development Exco-Committee under the Security and Development Program. Each year, Betong and Hulu Perak (border town in Perak state at the Malaysian side) takes turn to organize the event which aims at fostering closer ties between the border community through recreational and sport activities and also, strengthening the border relationship. This year, there were around 600 participants taking part in the various events including football, basketball, volleyball, badminton, tug-of-war, border marathon and so on.

Participants from Betong with the Mayor/Band to live up the event

Match in progress/Mini-motor game for children

I didn’t turn up on the first day for the marathon which started at 6:00am and then the opening ceremony because I woke up a little late:). I joined the Chief Minister and other VIPs with the mayor for the closing and prize presentation ceremony lunch. The public hall in Hulu Perak was filled with joy and excitement. There were Malays, Chinese, Indians and Thai which formed a nice picture of fellowship. This year the overall champion was the Betong team and they shall keep the champion cup till the next border game. The two-days event was a great a success and the closing ceremony ended with joy and a wonderful memory.

At the closing ceremony/Lunch time

Thai cultural dance/Malay cultural dance

In the near future, the cross border relationship will be further enhanced with the implementation of the multipurpose national smart card access, whereby immigration clearance of entry and exit will be made much easier and faster.

There is a proposed North Gate Manufacturing Park development project in Hulu Perak. The RM1.2billion project will be developed as a logistic centre as well as an integrated industrial zone at the Malaysia-Thai border. The first phase of the Northgate industrial area will span an area of 60 hectares on state government-owned land. The area, which was planned as a duty-free and passport-free area, will be equipped with infrastructure components and services and will house government, industrial and commercial agencies.

Should the project go on successfully, it will create tremendous opportunities to the people and the Betong economy will also benefit. I look forward to it!

The Classic Motor Competition 2005

O1 October 2005, the little town of Betong was overwhelmed with over 200 bikers taking part in the 1st Classic Motor Competition organized by the Classic Motor Club of Betong. Through the event, the organizer hoped to foster closer ties with the community and simultaneously stimulate tourism. The event attracted over 100 participants from Malaysia and each of them looked so excited and full of confidence. The bikers paraded through Betong town to the Hot Spring, which is 14 km away from Betong. Though it was hot and sunny, the opening ceremony still attracted a large audience. As I forgot to bring my cap, I was only worried about my black spots coming out!

Most of the motorcycles taking part were of “scooter’ type. Some of the owners had decorated and revamped their bikes and felt proud to show off their works. When the parade ride started, the whole area was full of smoke and funny sounds “kakaka….”, I was thinking whether the bikes can reach Hot Spring…

The classic motorbikes/Smoky start

Some of the spectators/The Malaysian bikers

I drove and followed the bike troupe to the Hot Spring. Along the way, there were several motorbikes broken down and the bikers looked frustrated. The motorbike troupe attracted a lot of spectators and the children were particularly excited. It was Saturday and there were many people having picnics there and with the addition of over 200 bikers, the Hot Spring was bustled with noise and excitement.

I only stayed in the Hot Spring for half an hour as I had to receive a group of reporters from Malaysia. On my way back, I saw some of the broken down bikes still at the road sides. There are certain things we can change and improve in life. Certain things, no matter how much time and effort we put in, we can never change them against time….

The children after ‘tadika’ school watching interestedly

Participants having lunch at Hot Spring/Party at night

Farewell To The Army

The unrest in the three southern border provinces has become a matter of concern, affecting the morale of local people. The Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Command (SBPPC) has been set up to stop the unrest in the South and bring about security through unified and integrated efforts by the military, the police, civil servants, and the general public.

Arrival of General Sirichai Tunyasiri, director of SBPPC in March 2005/Welcoming lunch

Picture with Piyamit villagers/Surrounded by the media

Since last year, a lot of army units have been sent to the different provincial districts in the Southern region to dispel the insurgency and safeguard security of the region. Sometimes, the full armed soldiers around may create tension atmosphere in the locality and to the tourists. In fact, many of those officials and soldiers posted did not have the experience in dealing with unrest situation. They themselves were tense and nervous too and thus sometimes result in misunderstandings with the local people as they carried out their duties. Besides, there were also misunderstandings and problems as well as personality and policy clashes due to the lack of proper coordination and integration among the various security agencies such as civic sector, police and army.

I must say that the Mayor of Betong has done a good job in promoting better integration, coordination and cooperation among the relevant agencies. For example, regular and contingent meetings will be arranged so that officers posted here and those relevant agencies such as immigration and police officers etc. will understand more about one another’s duties, responsibilities, authority and jurisdiction, enabling them to join hands in the security matter. Visits and “meet with the people” events will also be arranged to exchange views constantly with the community leaders or local religious leaders and people to create better understanding.

The Mayor also works closely with the army to bridge the gap between army and local people and also to ease the tension atmosphere in Betong, so as not to scare off tourists. As Betong is a relatively safe place, sometimes the soldiers would assist in community service such as repairing of football fields, assist in training camps, involve in arrangement of community events and so on. The move was in line with the royal words of “understanding, accessibility, and development” as well as the proposed guidelines of SBPPC in tackling the deep South problems with local participation.

Assist in training camps

Get along well with the people

Last Saturday, I went to see off an army officer posted here and the army in a suburb camp. Half of the army were going back to the HQ in Bangkok. Being the frontliners in case of any insurgency, I salute them for their courage and contribution to the country. If not for the unrest situation in Southern Thailand, many of them would not be here. I believe they had had a valuable and fruitful experience and wish that the many soldiers need not be back here again…

Farewell to the army