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A centuries old mystery unearthed

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A centuries old mystery unearthed | The Thaiger

PHUKET: In May of this year an unbelievable discovery was made in a palm plantation in Khao Chaison, a district within Phatthalung province. Wee Thapsaeng, the owner of a 7-rai plot of land was using his tractor to plow the land, in order to prepare it for growing palm trees. What emerged, however, was not just mud and earthworms, as one would expect. To his surprise, Wee also found several gold plates emerging from the disturbed ground (story here).

A visit to the local goldsmith quickly confirmed that the objects were indeed solid gold. News of the discovery soon spread among the villagers sparking a frenzied rush to look for more gold. Hundreds of villagers started digging in Wee’s plot of land and true to their expectations, more gold was discovered. By the time the Fine Arts Department had heard of the news and arrived to investigate the site, villagers had dug up hundreds of gold plates, bracelets, nuggets and animal pendants.

Initial investigation of the artifacts confirmed that the gold was indeed ancient. In fact, the hoard found in Khao Chaison turned out to be more than 800 years old, according to experts from the Fine Arts Department.

Villagers who lived nearby said that the site of the discovery used to be an old canal bed, which had long since dried up. They also said that an old Chinese vessel had been uncovered there several years ago. One of the villagers who managed to dig up a gold plate from the plot of land, said that her find was buried only 20 centimeters underground. When she uncovered the plate, it resembled a piece of paper that had been folded many times. The plate had Chinese characters inscribed into it. According to her daughter, the characters translated as ‘Powerful Being’.

So how did Chinese-inscribed treasure, or for that matter, any treasure end up in the middle of a field in Phatthalung province?

Assuming the experts at the Fine Arts Department have correctly dated the treasure hoard, the gold must have originated from an era that preceded the Sukhothai Kingdom. In fact, around 800 years ago when the treasure was lost, the boat carrying it must have been sailing along an ancient canal that ran through, what was then, the Srivijaya Empire.

Srivijaya was a regional power from around the 8th to the 12th century AD. The boundaries of the empire stretched from what is now modern-day Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula and the south of Thailand, up to Surat Thani province. The empire prospered from maritime trade and fostered its commercial relationship with the ruling Tang Dynasty, and then later with the Song Dynasty of China.

Srivijaya was also an important center for Mahayana Buddhism. In fact, the earliest mention of Srivijaya was made in the 7th century AD. A Chinese monk called Yijing, who travelled to the empire in the year 671 AD, wrote about Srivijaya in his travel accounts.

Srivijaya was a maritime empire. During its heyday, the rulers of Srivijaya controlled the most important sea routes and allowed it to foster trade between China and the various kingdoms in India. Its location made it a maritime trading center and propelled it into one of the wealthiest and most populous kingdoms in the region during that period. Back then, the rulers of Srivijaya understood that their regional dominance was owed to the fact that they controlled the most important trade routes.

The kings of Srivijaya ordered the building of canals throughout their empire, in order to make it easier for merchant ships to sail within the territory. Aerial photographs, which were taken in 1984 show remnants of impressive canal networks, moats and ponds in Palembang, in southern Sumatra, which were built during the Srivijaya Empire.

The city of Ligor, modern day Nakhon Sri Thammarat, was an important trading center within the Srivijaya kingdom. The ancient canal network, which runs through Phatthalung may have connected Ligor with the sea and the various towns in the region.

Although many trading vessels would have voyaged along the canals during the Srivijaya period, maritime journeys during that time were fraught with danger. Several ships were sunk due to storms and other catastrophes. The hoard of gold discovered in Phatthalung may have been in transit through Srivijaya territory, but for some reason the vessel carrying it must have sunk in the canal along with its precious cargo. The invaluable treasure would not resurface again for another 800 years.

Anek Sihamart, chief of the Fine Arts Department is worried, however, that if the gold rush is not stopped, villagers could seriously damage the ancient site and the historical artifacts. The fact is, discoveries dating from the Srivijaya period have been very rare and this find, if confirmed to be from that period, could reveal some intriguing information about the empire’s history that has never come to light before. The Fine Arts Department has now offered to buy the ancient gold back from villagers who may have taken those pieces home, at prices higher than the market value. They have also asked the military for help in fencing off the area so that a proper excavation of the site can be done in due course.

— Anand Singh

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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