Safety net for our silk
Just in time for the Queen's birthday, Peacock silk is trademarked worldwide
Among the many gifts Her Majesty the Queen will receive for her birthday on Sunday, the Commerce Ministry's Department of Intellectual Property will formally present her with certification that the Peacock seal has been registered in 37 countries, further safeguarding her beloved Thai silk.
Thai silk's greatest champion - invariably wearing it on public occasions, promoting the craftsmanship and supporting the farmers - the Queen established the Peacock seal to protect the Thai variety of silk and its production process and to maintain its high standards.
Intellectual Property Department director Pajchima Tanasanti recently announced that the Peacock trademark certifying the silk's quality has been accepted by the European Union, the United States, Britain and Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, among other countries and territories.
"Her Majesty's vision made the export of Thai silk commercially possible through a grading system," Pajchima said. "It was a way of responding to market demand while at the same time preventing its exploitation as a creative process."
The Peacock Seals, whose registration was initiated by the Office of the Prime Minister in 2005, entail four categories.
The Golden Peacock seal indicates fabric made of indigenous silk thread, both weft and warp, and other raw materials. It guarantees a traditional production process, involving a hand-spinner, a handloom on which the artisan controls the shuttle, and natural dyes, or at least environmentally friendly chemical pigments.
A Silver Peacock on the label means the material is indigenous or modified Thai silk and that machinery other than hand tools was used in some stages of the production process. In some cases motorised tools might have been used, but the motor was no bigger than five horsepower.
A Blue Peacock is for fabric produced "appropriate to the time and business". A Green Peacock shows that the material features designs woven from genuine silk thread and other natural or synthetic fibres, according to intended use or consumer need.
Regardless of the criteria, the Peacock avers that the fabric is "made in Thailand". Each label also carries a unique number so the item can be traced to its production source.
All four seals are "equally important and valuable" in specific situations, said Prateep Meesilpa, deputy director general the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
"The Blue Peacock is most in demand because the material is manufactured industrially. The Silver and Green symbols are least requested. The Golden Peacock is reserved for silk farmers only," he explained.
Permission to apply Peacock seals is granted only after Sericulture Department officials examine the finished fabric. "If a farmer wants to produce silk worthy of the Golden Peacock, for example, we'll assist him from the start by providing indigenous silkworms, of which there are about 30 species today.
"We keep in touch with the farmer, giving advice and training as needed and assessing the progress of the production process until we're satisfied with the outcome."
Silk farmers get the department's help at 21 National Sericulture Centres across the country.
"In the past six years the department has issued Peacock seals for a total of 80,000 metres of fabric," said Prateep, who has spent 34 years working with Thai silk and with the department and its precursor, Her Majesty's Institute of Sericulture.
The Queen's Support Foundation has been working with artisans in Baan Na Pho, a village in Buri Ram, who have earned more Golden Peacocks than any other group, he said. "Baan Bua Fai in Khon Kaen is another place where everyone in the village is involved in silk production."
Asked whether Thailand's silk industry will be able to cope when the Asean Economic Community is inaugurated in 2015 - opening the gates to region-wide competition - Prateep said the country is quite well equipped with knowledge and production skills.
"We've even hosted two seminars for Asean countries as well as a World Silk Organisation conference.
"A Chinese specialist once told me that no other country could ever produce silk like the Thais do. He said, 'It seems to have a life of its own, so that the people bond with it.' I totally agree!"
Also newly patented as per Her Majesty's request are Thai silk soap and the various arts and crafts featured in the ongoing "Arts of the Kingdom" exhibit in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.
Silk dental floss and the device used to make it have Department of Intellectual Property patents pending.
Meanwhile Lamphun brocade silk, Praewa Kalasin silk, Chonnabot Mudmee silk and Sangyod Muang Phatthalung rice have been granted "Thai Geographical Indication" as a copyright shield.