August 12, 2008

Thai Queen Urges People to Preserve Forests, Fresh Water Resources

Text of report in English by Thai newspaper Bangkok Post website on 12 August

[Unattributed report: "BIRTHDAY ADDRESS: Queen asks people to save forests and water"]

Her Majesty the Queen has impressed upon Thai people the importance of preserving forests and fresh water resources and said that fresh water shortages could trigger conflict and wars.

The Queen gave her birthday address yesterday to a gathering of cabinet ministers, dignitaries, high-ranking government officials and members of the public who went to the Dusitdalai Pavilion to wish her well on the eve of her 76th birthday today.

"I have read foreign publications and learned that in the next 15 years fresh water will be scarce. I think this will be a big problem for the world," the Queen said.

"I am worried that our country lacks large fresh water resources. There are only forests. Forests are where water is collected underground. Forests will soak up rainwater which will otherwise flow to the seas. They are a good source of water," Her Majesty said.

She urged people to realise that forests are not for commercial purposes. They also have other uses that we should be aware of.

"In the next 15 years, fresh water will be difficult to come by and will be expensive," she said.

Even though the world can now distil and change sea water into fresh water for consumption, the process is costly and Thailand cannot afford to do so, the Queen said.

It will be better if we preserve forests to get fresh water from them, she added.

The Queen also voiced her concern about the cleanness of the Chao Phraya river, saying when she was young, the river was rich in various species of fish and shrimps and there was enough for everyone to eat. Nowadays, there is only striped catfish, or pla sawai, in the Chao Phraya, which the Queen described as "not tasty at all".

Factories along the banks of the river should not be allowed to release chemicals into the river, the Queen added.

Her Majesty urged government agencies and city residents to work together to save the polluted Chao Phraya river and make sure the river will be restored as a source of food for poor people in the city, as in the past.

The Queen also stressed the importance of mangrove forests, which serve as nurseries for baby fish and young marine life which in turn become food for people.

She also suggested farmers switch back to using water buffaloes instead of mechanical ploughs, given the ever-increasing fuel costs.

The Queen asked the government to support the rice bank project initiated by His Majesty the King. Rice banks are set up in villages across the country.

The idea of the project is that poor farmers can "borrow" rice for consumption from the bank. Whenever they produce good yields, they then return the rice they borrowed to the bank.

She also commended young police officers and soldiers for making sacrifices and carrying out their duties in the troubled deep South.

Originally published by Bangkok Post website, Bangkok, in English 12 Aug 08.

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