Located in Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Chiralada Villa has been the official residence of His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen, and their royal children since 1962. It serves not only as a royal residence but also performs a number of other functions. One of them is that it is the location of a training center of the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupation and Related Techniques, or SUPPORT Foundation, established by Her Majesty the Queen. Let’s have a look at the SUPPORT Center in Chitralada Villa.
The book, Mother of the Land, Queen Sirikit of Thailand: Patroness of Thai Crafts, published by the Government Public Relations Department, states that Chitralada Villa has an atmosphere distinctly different from any palace in the world. On the southern side of the palace ground, passers-by will see a large herd of dairy cattle grazing about. It has been a site for His Majesty the King’s several experimental projects in agriculture and agro-industry. On the eastern side is located the Royal Elephant kraal. On the northern side are the Supplementary Occupation Program Division, as part of the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, and the SUPPORT Center.
Inside the SUPPORT Foundation and Center building will be seen about 500 of its members, coming from rural areas in the regions and undergoing occupational training in various branches of craftsmanship under the program set up by Her Majesty the Queen. The goals of the courses are to enable the trainees to become fully capable of engaging in handicraft production and earning extra income from their supplementary occupations, as well as to help preserve and revive Thailand’s ancient traditions of handicraft production.
Her Majesty began with courses in silk weaving and bamboo basket weaving offered to the children of palace officials in Dusit Palace and courses offered to provincial members in palaces, located in other provinces. On any of the trips to visit her subjects during a change of residence, she will take on poor and undereducated children who have no experience in any craft as SUPPORT trainees and seek out qualified teachers and enlist their service in teaching the delicate arts. Her Majesty inspects each and every article produced and gives encouragement to every member. She will use all types of the products herself to set an example to the people in general.
The Chitralada Center began operation in 1978 when Her Majesty the Queen picked members for the first class out of the families of palace officials, numbering 10 persons, for training in cloth and bamboo weaving. At the time, a permanent building had yet to be built, so a temporary tent was erected beside the building housing Her Majesty the Queen’s Personal Affairs Division. Meals plus weekly allowances were provided to all the trainees.
At present, the center offers training courses in many crafts, such as gold and silver ware, silk weaving, woodcarving, leather carving, basketry, carpentry, clay modeling, drawing and painting, beetle-wing decoration, embroidery, and artificial flowers. Each craft has student-trainees of both sexes and is staffed by guest specialists from outside agencies and trainers who are talented SUPPORT members. The SUPPORT Foundation will distribute finished crafts through its outlets”SUPPORT show rooms and Chitralada stores, annual exhibitions, and trade fairs.
Her Majesty the Queen, who celebrates her 72nd birthday anniversary this year, has provided encouragement and support to both teachers and students. The students, in particular, will receive assistance to establish their own craft production at the end of their training. They may send their finished products for sale through various SUPPORT shops in all parts of the country.