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TRIBUTE TO THE ROYAL GRANDMA

A medal struck in tribute to Queen Savang Vadhana affords a chance to help fellow citizens in need



Medallions commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Queen Grandmother Her Majesty Queen Sri Savarindira have been minted to raise money for the renovation of Somdej Na Sriracha Hospital.

Chavalee Amatyakul of the Queen Savang Vadhana Foundation told reporters at Srapathum Palace last week that Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who chairs the foundation, had said any celebration of her great-grandmother's birthday should also benefit the people.

A suitable cause was found in repairing the 110-year-old Queen Savang Vadhana Memorial Hospital, officially known as Somdej Phra Baromma Raja Devi Na Sriracha Hospital. (Queen Sri Savarindira was also called Savang Vadhana.)

One of the country's oldest hospitals, it was conceived and supported by the Queen Grandmother and is now administered by the Thai Red Cross Society.

The Queen Grandmother is among Unesco's World Great Personalities in education, medical science and culture preservation. Her 93 years spanned six reigns, beginning with King Rama IV.

She was a bride of Rama V, bearing him eight children from the late 1870s into the 1890s, though most died young, their cumulative loss severely injuring the queen's health. Only with the birth of her three grandchildren to her youngest son Prince Mahitala Dhibesra Adulyadej Vikrom (also known as Prince Mahidol of Songkhla) and Princess Sri Nagarindra did she recover somewhat. One of these offspring became His Majesty King Bhumibol.

Her grieving for her own lost children continued, however, and King Chulalongkorn agreed that the queen would fare better away from Bangkok. She moved to Sriracha on the Chonburi seaside, where she soon learned that the area had no hospital. Treatments were often dispensed from roving oxcarts.

By 1902 she had Somdej Na Sriracha Hospital built, and it has come to serve more than a million patients a year, but it's showing its age.

"The hospital has been the centre for medical service for underprivileged people in the east of Thailand for such a long time that it's not only crowded but also in very poor condition," said Yodyiam Teptaranon, chief architect on the renovation.

"The examining room, emergency room and surgery room are no longer adequate. The medical equipment is out of date. People might need to wait a week for a check-up. The resident doctors, nurses and officials' living conditions are very poor as well."

The renovation is expected to continue for seven or eight years and cost Bt5.2 billion, and another Bt800 million is needed for medical equipment.

The Queen Grandmother commemorative medal, issued to raise funds and let people help rebuild the hospital, features her portrait, copied from the famous sculpture by Silpa Bhirasri. All of the medallions are to be sanctified in a ceremony at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

The price ranges according to type, with the least expensive costing Bt100 and a complete collection available for Bt1 million. Only 150 full sets have been made, each certified with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's signature.



A KEEPSAKE THAT CONTRIBUTES

<< Reserve a commemorative medal anytime after September 10 with the Queen Savang Vadhana| Foundation at (02) 252 9137 or (02) 251 3999, extension 201-2. They can also be obtained through Somdej Na Sriracha Hospital itself, Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikorn Bank.

<< A short documentary about the Queen Grandmother will be aired during the royal news on every channel from September 9 to 15.

<< The Unesco office in the US city of Chicago will host an exhibition about the Queen Grandmother at the same time.

<< Seminars are being planned about the medical science at Siriraj Hospital and on education and women at Chulalongkorn University.


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