Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to visit my son who is currently enrolled in a study abroad program through his college. Prior to my visit, I
searched for an English speaking club to visit in the city. A very helpful Rotarian named Douglas Riach of the Bangkok South club, suggested that I visit the Rotary Club of Bangkok, the oldest club in the city. This club was established in 1930. I made my way to their luncheon meeting at the Grand Hyatt Erawan, a beautiful hotel in a very modern section of the city. The club members were very friendly and receptive. Mr. Riach, who met me there and introduced me to a few of the members, also stayed for lunch. In addition to members of the club from Thailand, several of the members of this club are international conducting business in Bangkok or, they are affiliated with embassies in the city. During the meeting, some Roteract students spoke from a Thai school who assist students in need. I was delighted to meet the new president of the Bangkok Club, Kallaya Leeissarapong. Kallaya introduced me to another member, H.E. Ana Maria Ramirez, the ambassador to Thailand, from Argentina.I was moved by the service projects of both the Rotary Club of Bangkok and of the
Bangkok South Club. Here in the United States, we often lose sight of the fact that polio vaccinations are still part of Rotary service projects in other parts of the world.The Rotary Club of Bangkok has sponsored polio vaccinations in Thailand, was involved in a flood relief program which was of particular concern after the floods in the area last year and the club takes on extensive clean water projects. The floods did affect the clean drinking water so, these projects were conducted in tandem. Several of the Rotary clubs continue to work together on the clean water projects in the schools. This is of particular concern in the rural areas of Thailand. Another concern in Thailand is the spread of HIV/AIDs in the south. Several Rotary clubs were involved in this three year project which raised awareness of the problem in two southern Thailand provinces.
I was also impressed with the involvement of sponsors in the Bangkok Rotary projects. These sponsors make so many wonderful service efforts possible for the needy in Thailand. Some of the sponsors for the Bangkok South club’s Coins on Silom project include the 3M company (3M Thailand), the Bangkok Hospital, BP and a major coffee company in the area. Mr. Riach is the fundraising director for the Bangkok South club and is responsible for many successful projects.
Bangkok South also partners with a Rotary club from Italy and with the Martha’s
Vineyard Club in the U.S.!
As the Rotarians learned when they visited this wonderful country of Thailand for the RIconvention in May, Rotary International was introduced to Thailand through a Canadian Rotarian and is supported by the King and Queen of Thailand today. See story below:
To broaden its role and to develop a truly international stature, Rotarian James W. Davidson of the Rotary Club of Calgary, Canada, was appointed by Rotary International as General Commissioner for the formation of Rotary Clubs in Asia. In the course of his nearly three-year odyssey, he chartered 23 clubs in 12 countries, from Turkey to Thailand. During an audience with H.R.H. Prince Purachatra, Davidson was able to discuss the concept of Rotary. H.R.H. Prince Purachatra was so impressed with Rotary’s ideals that he proceeded to arrange the first English speaking organizing meeting of RC Bangkok, which was held at Phya Thai Palace, Bangkok. H.R.H. Prince Purachatra Krom Phra Kampaeng Bejra was elected the Club’s Charter President and on November 28, 1930, Rotary Club Bangkok received its Charter document No. 3392 from Rotary International. On December 23, 1931, H.M. King Prachadipok, Rama VII, graciously attended the banquet held at Phya Thai Palace Hotel with H.R.H. Prince Purachatra as President of the Club. By letter received on September 15, 1955, on the occasion of RC Bangkok’s Silver Anniversary, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, graciously consented to honor the Rotary Movement by becoming the Royal Patron of Rotary in Thailand. It was also at this time that the Constitution and By-laws of Rotary International were first translated into Thai by Luang Sitsayamkam, Past President of the Rotary Club of Bangkok. On February 27, 1969, H.M. The King graciously presided over the gala fund-raising dinner of Rotary Club Bangkok. On December 15, 1980, RC Bangkok celebrated her Golden Anniversary and 50 years of the Rotary movement in Thailand at Suan Ambhorn Palace. Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit graciously presided over the function. In 1990-91, on the occasion of Rotary Club Bangkok’s fifth cycle, constructed the Music Pavilion in Rama IX Garden to benefit the public and honor the Royal Patron of Rotary in Thailand, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej who is well known worldwide for his talent in music. H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn addressed the Rotary gathering on November 23, 1990 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Rotary movement in Thailand and graciously accepted to be an Honorary Member of RC Bangkok.
I enjoyed my visit to Thailand and will always treasure the new friends I made there.
Posted by: Paula Kelley, Vice President Fairfax Rotary Club