How do westerners see Thailand

Ceremony marks step towards independence

Prince or princess hands over diploma to state universities

By Birte Bolte-Chuychunu, university lecturer in Bangkok




Bangkok. Thousands of young people have gathered at their old university. The reason: practicing for the traditional handing over of certificates. When a member of the royal family receives the certificate from the helper every four seconds to be able to hand it over to the graduate of the state university, every step has to be right. Nobody is allowed to step out of line. At the major state universities in Bangkok - Ramkhamhaeng, Chulalongkorn, Thammasat and Kasetsart - the ceremonial handing over of certificates extends throughout the day.

The dress rehearsal begins: In the university costume, a long, mostly dark robe - cut similar to a judge's robe - the freshly baked graduates are lined up in rank and file. Mistakes are still allowed - a week later, mistakes could lead to delays. A representative of the royal family is in charge of the rehearsal. It is also he who takes on the role of prince or princess and hands over the testimony. A speaker reads the name of the first graduate. He steps forward. At the same time, a helper gives the representative of the royal family the certificate, which is immediately forwarded to the graduate. The young man takes a step backwards while the name of the next graduate is already being called out. The end is only until everyone has had their turn.




A week later: The rehearsal becomes serious. The graduates drive to their university early in the morning - most of them accompanied by their families. While they attend the ceremony all day long, the relatives have to wait outside. You are watching the ceremony on screen. Several rows of chairs and televisions have been set up.

Phorntip (47) and Jaran Keawpradit (53) came to Bangkok with their younger daughter for the big day from the southern province of Songkla - a journey of more than 900 kilometers. Her 22-year-old daughter received her bachelor's degree in business administration. At seven o'clock in the morning they have already entered the grounds of the Kasetsart University. Why is giving certificates something special to you? "This day symbolizes a point that you only reach once in a lifetime, and I am very happy for my daughter too," says mother Phorntip.



The graduate's aunt, Penpitcha Somakpong (51), is waiting for the end of the ceremony with the family. On the chair next to her there are already numerous flowers and a white teddy bear. Penpitcha knows the experience of handing over a certificate. 29 years ago, King Bhumibol Adulyadej presented her with the certificate from Ramkhamhaeng University, the largest university in Thailand. The aunt describes the emotions as a "feeling of independence". “My family financed me up to that point, but with the degree I was able to work myself. I didn't burden my parents anymore, ”says the current head of a chemical company. The photo of the king's handover of the certificate hangs in her living room: “So that every guest can see it,” she says. But this picture not only adorns her wall: It is one of many in her father's house. “My father hung up the photos of all the children and grandchildren's graduation from university,” says Penpitcha. Another picture soon follows, showing her niece and the king's daughter, Princess Julaporn.

It still takes a few hours before the young graduate can tell her family about the moment of the handover. The celebration takes place the next day. “Today we want to relax, but tomorrow we're going to a nice restaurant. We have already made reservations for twelve people, ”says the mother of the young graduate.

I also bought a travel language guide "Thai". You can usually get along very well with English, but as soon as you are further away from the tourist centers, this can be helpful. In addition, the Thais are very happy when a “falang” - that's what Westerners call them - can speak a few words of Thai.

The Polthiseng family has been sitting a few rows away since eight o'clock. Estimated end of the ceremony: 6 p.m. The parents, Thongjon (50) and Sanong (52), drove to Bangkok from a province 70 kilometers away together with their big daughter and little sister. They are overjoyed and proud of their daughter Patumrat. The 22-year-old also studied business administration. The father Thongjon sees the ceremony as something unique: “Other celebrations are in your own hands. So you celebrate a wedding when you are ready for it. ”The handing over of certificates, on the other hand, only takes place after hard work and diligent study. Presents do not play a role in this celebration. “My great gift was the financing of my studies. Today there are only little things left by the family, ”says father Thongjon. The family would like to go home together that evening. But before that she has dinner in a small group in a nice restaurant.



It is still early in the afternoon, but Chutimaporn Charuchinda (23) has already had her ceremony. She studied at the College of Nursing in Northern Thailand. A total of around 300 students are enrolled at the faculty of Chiang Mai University - too few to be able to hold the ceremony on its own campus. Instead, she and her former fellow students received the certificate in Bangkok from Princess Soamsavali, the first ex-wife of the king's son. She was very excited, but at the same time happy to have made it, she says. "The best thing for me, however, is that I was able to make my parents happy," adds the nurse. You don't have much time in Bangkok. Thanks to a scholarship, she already had a job in a state hospital in her home town of Udon Thani in the north-east. “I have to go back to work tomorrow,” she says.


Source: Siam heute, issue 2/2009, April-June 2009, images: Chuychunu. Thank you very much for the permission to display it on!


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