Bangkok City Hall, Thailand; Image: Photographer Sodacan
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Opium Museums in Northern Thailand
Segueing from this month’s featured NPR series on the Mekong River, CSEAS came across two museums that explore Northern Thailand’s historic association with the opium trade. Interestingly, although these museums share a regional and topical focus, they exhibit the area’s opium-related past in their own distinct way.
Founded by the Princess Mother, the nationally-run Hall of Opium educates the public about the “social, economic and physical costs of drug abuse, and the crime and corruption that surrounds it and efforts to control it.” After learning about the Opium War, the Hall of Opium also serves the community through exhibits on drug control, case studies, and victim/excuse gallery. After trekking through nearly 9,000 years of opium in the Golden Triangle, the exhibition ends in the aptly named “Hall of Reflection” – where visitors can reflect upon their experience in the presence of “[q]uotations from famous individuals… on the value of leading a life of moderation.” In addition to guiding the museum’s “Just Say No” narrative, HRH The Princess also enacted several crop substitution initiatives to help villagers transition away from opium cultivation for sustenance.
The House of Opium, on the other hand, is a private institution that appears more interpretive of the opium trade’s cultural effects. Owner Mrs. Patcharee Srimattayakul, who used to run a souvenir shop in Sob Ruak Village, was inspired to establish the museum when her knack for acquiring small antiques and curios led to felt disappointment at losing these culturally significant artifacts in the tourist trade. Alongside more standard information about opium history and practice, the House of Opium also includes a fascinating collection of anatomically bead pipes from the Srikasetra Period and contemporary art and photography. Appropriate given the owner’s former business, visitors can even “take back home with them their own collection of effigies, masks, opium pipes scales and boxes… and much more from the gift shop.”
House of Opium
212 Moo.1 (Sobruak Village)
Tumbon Wiang, Umpoe Chinag Sean,
Chiang Rai Province
Tel: (+66) 53-784-060
FAX: (+66) 63-784-062
- Asian Tribune (English)
- Bangkok Post (English and Thai)
- The Nation (English)
- Thairath (Thai)
- The Daily News Online (Thai)
- Ban Muang Online (Thai)
- Matichon Online (Thai)