Monday, December 28, 2009

Vietnamese in Thailand

Vietnamese migration to Thailand began as early as 18th - 19th C when Catholics fleeing religious persecution settled here. Later emigrants were those opposed to French colonial rule. The period from the end of WW II to the Second Indochina War saw further Vietnamese migration to Thailand.

Nakhon Phanom(นครพนม)
Of those Vietnamese who sought political asylum in Thailand during their struggle for independence from the French, some settled in Nakhon Phanom owing to its proximity. There's clock tower built in 1960 dedicated to the Vietnamese return to their motherland, a monument for the Vietnamese migrants. There're a number of Vietnamese restaurants in town. In the city outskirts there's a Thai-Vietnamese Friendship Village in Ban Na Chok with a Vietnamese cemetery. The local television here includes a Vietnamese channel.

Nakhon Phanom, a province in the north-eastern Thailand about 740 km from Bangkok, is right on the banks of the Mekong River between the provinces of Nong Khai to the north and Mukdakan to the south. Laos is just across the river. The Mekong starts in China and flows through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Nakhon Phanom (นครพนม) is one of the north-eastern provinces (changwat) of Thailand. Neighboring provinces are (from south clockwise) Mukdahan, Sakon Nakhon and Nong Khai. To the north-east it borders Khammouan of Laos.

The Province covers an area of 5,512 square kilometers and is comprised of the following districts: Mueang Nakhon Phanom, Pla Bak, Tha Uthen, Phon Sawan, Ban Phaeng, That Phanom, Renu Nakhon, Na Kae, Si Songkhram, Na Wa , Na Thom and Wang Yang.

The provincial capital, Mueang Nakhon Phanom (Thai: เมืองนครพนม)which shares the same name as the province. Nakhon Phanom city (City of Hills) is on the banks of the Mekong. The Mekong river running adjacent to the city, marking the current border between Thailand and Laos. A road runs along the banks with an esplanade. Laotian town of Tha Khaek , located on the opposite bank of the river.

The population of Nakhon Phanom is a diverse mix of Thais, Thai-Vietnamese, Thai-Chinese, and perhaps a few Thai-Indians. The main languages spoken are Thai, Isaan, and Vietnamese, Isaan being the most popular of them. The primary culture is Lao, as Isaan was part of Laos until the late 19th century.

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Vietnam War

During the Second Vietnam War (1954 - 1975), the United States maintained several air bases in Thailand from which air strikes were launched against North Vietnam. These bases were Don Muang, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Takhli, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani and Utapao. However not all the air operations were directed at North Vietnam.

Back in 1963, Nakhon Phanom was a small border town with dirt roads and a small air strip near town. Seabees or the US Navy's Construction Battalions built a new airfield outside town with a PSP (perforated steel planking) runway and wooden shacks. The airfield then had an air force radar station and three rescue helicopters.

By the late 1960s, the airfield was expanded to one with a concrete runway which operated fixed wing propeller planes and helicopters flying a variety of missions; forward air controllers, close air support, insertion and extraction of personnel, search and rescue. That airfield is the provincial airport today.

However there were also some air units that flew planes with no US insignias or markings; their pilots didn't wear Air Force uniforms. These air units flew missions over neighbouring Laos in a war (1965 - 1975) in which American involvement was not officially acknowledged by the US government. Some of these units operated from Nakhon Phanom.

Places of interest:

1. Ban Na Chok (Ho Chi Minh’s House) (บ้านนาจอก/ บ้านโฮจิมินห์)

The village was once a safe house for Ho Chi Minh, an ex-president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, during 1924 -1931 when he led the war for Vietnam’s independence.

Ho Chi Minh(胡志明)(19 May 1890 – 2 September 1969) , who was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary and statesman who was prime minister (1946–1955) and president (1945–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Hồ led the Viet Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the communist-governed Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu. He resided between 1928 and 1931 at Ban Nachok, a small village on the road between the airbase and Nakhon Phanom. Both his home and a new modern museum are now open to the public

2.St. Anna’s Church Nong Saeng (วัดนักบุญอันนา หนองแสง). Through its beautiful architecture, the church represents the town that houses people from different ethnicities. Before Christmas Eve of each year, Christians from different communities will make stars and place them in the church.

3. Phu Langka National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูลังกา). The park is blanketed by tropical rain forest, mixed deciduous forest and deciduous dipterocarp forest, which is a habitat for a number of wildlife, as well as watershed for many streams.

4. Wat Si Thep Pradittharam (วัดศรีเทพประดิษฐาราม) The temple is located on Si Thep Road, opposite Chumchon Thetsaban 3 School, in Amphoe Mueang, and was established in 1859. Besides housing beautiful murals regarding the Lord Buddha’s history, the temple also houses an important Buddha image called Phra Saeng. Phra Saeng was created synchronically with Phra Suk and Phra Sai (situated at Wat Phon Chai, Nong Khai). By the Phra Ubosot is a pagoda that houses the ashes of a famous monk, Luangpu Chan ( Phra Thep Sitthachan). His lifelike statue is placed in the Thep Sittharam Building. The temple has a beautiful building constructed in 1921. It was awarded by the Association of Siamese Architects for Best Preserved Architecture in the category of Places of Worship and Temples.

East Thailand
Eastern Thailand region comprises the seven provinces that lie south of Isaan and east of the Central region, sandwiched between Bangkok and Cambodia. Eastern Thailand contains only seven provinces, the smallest of 5 regions of Thailand(which consist of Central, North, North East, East, South).

* Chachoengsao(ฉะเชิงเทรา)
* Chanthaburi(จันทบุรี)
* Chonburi(ชลบุรี)
* Prachinburi(ปราจีนบุรี)
* Rayong(ระยอง)
* Sa Kaew(สระแก้ว)
* Trat (ตราด)

Five provinces border the Gulf of Thailand, and three share borders with Cambodia, all of which have at least one international border crossing (Aranyaprathet being the busiest). Pride of the coast is Pattaya(พัทยา), two-hour drive from the capital along a modern highway,is the Kingdom 's most developed beach destination. For vacationer who prefers a more traditional style resort holiday, there is a wide choice of quieter spots, ranging from the long sandy stretches of Rayong to offshore islands Koh Chang and Ko Samet.

Chanthaburi (จันทบุรี)

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Chanthaburi (จันทบุรี) is a province (changwat) of Thailand. It is located in the east of Thailand, at the border to Battambang and Pailin of Cambodia and the shore to the Gulf of Thailand. The neighboring provinces are Trat in the east and Rayong, Chonburi, Chachoengsao and Sa Kaeo.

Chanthaburi, commonly called Muang Chan, is another major eastern seaside province which has played an important role in the history of the nation both before and during the Rattanakosin (Bangkok) Period. It is wealthy and rich in natural resources, particularly gems in addition to the plentiful field of tropical fruits including rambutan, durian, mangosteen and langsad. Products from the seas are also extensive. It is also blessed with natural beauties and attractions equal to any sister provinces.

Chanthaburi is about 245 kilometers from Bangkok(4 hours by bus) and 110 kilometers from Rayong. The Cambodian border at Ban Pakard is 1-2 hours away by minibus (~100 baht) or songthaew (~40 baht), from where Pailin is just 15km away. It is administratively divided into 9 districts and 1 sub-district: Muang Chanthaburi, Khlung, Laem Sing, Makham, Pong Nam Ron, Tha Mai, Soi Dao, Kang Hang Maew, Na Yai Am and Khao Kitchakud sub-district.

After the Paknam crisis in 1893 the French colonist troops occupied Chanthaburi, returning it in 1905 when Thailand gave up ownership of the western part of Cambodia. A significant minority of Chanthaburi citizens are native Vietnamese, who came there in three waves - first in the 19th century during an anti-Catholic persecution in Cochin China, a second wave came in the 1920s to 1940s fleeing from French Indochina, and a third one after the communist victory in Vietnam in 1975. Thus the town of Chanthaburi is the seat of a Bishop of Chanthaburi since 1944.

Places of interest

1. King Taksin the Great Shrine (ศาลสมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช): The shrine is a nonagonal building with a roof taking the shape of a royal hat with a pointed spire constructed in 1920 A.D. It houses a statue of King Taksin the Great to whom a large number of people come to pay respect each day.

2. King Taksin the Great Monument (พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช): The monument of King Taksin the Great accompanied by his 4 trusted soldiers in memorial of the historic liberation of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya is situated on an islet in the middle of the swamp.

3. The Catholic Church Chanthaburi (โบสถ์คาทอลิกจันทบุรี หรือ อาสนวิหารพระนางมารีอาปฏิสนธินิรมล): According to history, the construction of this old and large Catholic Church took 275 years to complete. It was built into the Gothic architecture with beautiful stained glass decorations depicting Christian saints.

4. King Taksin Shipyard (อู่ต่อเรือพระเจ้าตาก) or Samet Ngam Shipyard (อู่ต่อเรือเสม็ดงาม): From underwater archaeological excavations and examination, several rectangular dock-like areas were found along the shore as well as parts of an old ship believed to be a three-masted Chinese junk using a rudder and measuring 24 metres long and 5 metres wide.

Catholic community revives its Vietnamese roots
Published On December 15 , 2009

CHANTHABURI, Thailand: A Thai Catholic community in eastern Thailand is trying to keep in touch with its Vietnamese roots as it celebrates its 300th anniversary.

For the past year, Father Chalerm Kitmongkhol has been teaching the Vietnamese language at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Chanthaburi to about 30 middle-aged Catholics.

The priest, who is secretary to Bishop Silvio Siripong Charatsri of Chanthaburi, and who is of Vietnamese descent, says he wanted to help the community appreciate its cultural heritage.

Father Chalerm also teaches Catholics the history of their Vietnamese ancestors.

The Catholic community in Chanthaburi began with a group of 130 Vietnamese who fled religious persecution in their country in the early 18th century. Further waves followed, the last after the reunification of Vietnam under the communists in 1975.

Cathedral parish priest Father Yod Senarak said he has also been conducting prayers in Vietnamese before Mass and during funerals in a bid to revive the language.

Wech Anamnart, 98, one of the oldest members of the community, sings and prays in Vietnamese every day.

She said people of her generation used to speak Vietnamese and wear the traditional Vietnamese dress. She is excited that many people in the Church here are "reviving the tradition of wearing the costume and the Vietnamese language is now being taught."

A weeklong celebration of the community's 300th anniversary culminated in a Mass on Dec. 12 when 7,000 people gathered at the cathedral. The event also marked the 100th anniversary of the Gothic-style cathedral, the biggest in Thailand.

Bishop Siripong presided at the Mass accompanied by special guest Vietnamese Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City and Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to Thailand.

Other guests included representatives of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, Chanthaburi provincial governor Poonsak Pranootnaraparn and other Thai officials.

Cardinal Man, speaking in Vietnamese, told the people the Vietnamese and Thai Churches now enjoy close relations. He praised Thailand's welcome for Vietnamese over the years.

"The Thai Church is like a Noah's Ark, a safe region for foreigners of all faiths to live. I thank the Thai Church for welcoming Vietnamese who migrated here," he said.

In his congratulatory message, Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Da Lat, president of the Vietnam Bishops' Conference, noted that the community has produced 70 priests and many Religious for the Church in Thailand.

Chanthaburi apostolic vicariate was established in 1944 and was elevated to a diocese in 1965.

Many of Thailand's Catholics are descendants of Vietnamese. Apart from Chanthaburi, they are mainly found in the northeast along the border with Laos.



Related articles

1.Nakhon Phanom Province,
3. Country at a glance - East Thailand,

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