Vegetarian festival sponsors upset Chinese residents
PHUKET TOWN: Phuket’s native Chinese residents are unhappy that two private companies involved in organizing the annual Vegetarian Festival seem to be commercializing this traditional event. Amnuay Sa-nguannam, Vice Governor of Phuket, chaired a committee meeting yesterday at Phuket Provincial Hall to discuss the festival’s plans with representatives from government offices, private organizations, and Phuket’s Chinese shrines. At the meeting, Narong Hongyok, a well-known Phuket businessman, spoke on behalf of shrine representatives. Expressing the group’s dissatisfaction, K. Narong said, “This year two private companies, The Vision Zone Co Ltd and Phuket Creation Co Ltd, are using the festival as a marketing tool for their own benefit.” The Vision Zone and Phuket Creation market similar food products, including soybean milk, instant noodles and soy sauce. “Both companies are trying to gain market share by sponsoring the festival – they want their product logos to be displayed along the street,” continued K. Narong. But an even bigger problem, he said, is that Phuket Creation was trying to register information about the Vegetarian festival for use on their website. Phuket Creation recently registered the copyrights to the festival’s history, which it plans to put on the company’s website, www.phuketfestival.com. Anyone wishing to use information contained on the website must first get the company’s permission. Kochatach Chantacham of Phuket Creation told the organizing committee that the Phuket Cultural Center had approved the material on their website. But one shrine representative (who asked not to be named) said, “It is totally improper for any particular company to have copyrights to the Vegetarian festival.” He also pointed out that, “Since the festival’s beginning, each shrine has held slightly different ceremonies. These have been passed down through successive Chinese generations and no shrine has ever had copyrights to the festival. “They have the right to carry out ceremonies based on their beliefs, and no one has the authority to say what’s the right or wrong version of the festival.” Along these lines, K. Narong added, “We have respectfully handed this festival down from generation to generation for 109 years. Never before has information about the festival been used for commercial purposes, or been inaccessible without first having to get someone’s permission.” Vice Governor Amnuay said that he would bring this issue to the appropriate authorities to clarify whether Phuket Creation has a right to copyright festival information.
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