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Thailand Honors Outstanding ASEAN Poets



Outstanding poets from the 10 ASEAN countries have received the “Sunthorn Phu Award,” presented for the first time by the Ministry of Culture of Thailand.

The award presentation took place at the Thailand Cultural Center in Bangkok on 26 June 2013, in commemoration of the birthday of Sunthorn Phu (1786-1855), one of Thailand’s great poets in the early Rattanakosin era. It is scheduled to be given each year on 26 June.

The Sunthorn Phu poet laureates 2013 include (1) Awang Haji Hashim bin Haji Abdul Hamid from Brunie Darussalam, (2) Ven Son from Cambodia, (3) Agus R. Sarjono from Indonesia, (4) Dara Kanlagna (Duangchampa) from Laos, (5) Zurinah Hassan from Malaysia, (6) U Saw Lwin from Myanmar, (7) Merlie M. Alunan from the Philippines, (8) Edwin Nadason Thumboo from Singapore, (9) Naowarat Pongpaiboon from Thailand, and (10) Tran Dang Khoa from Vietnam.

Each of them was awarded a plaque of honor and a cash prize of 50,000 baht in front of the portrait of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is recognized as Supreme Patroness of Thai Cultural Heritage.

The poets also joined a discussion on “Opening up of the ASEAN Poetic World” and held a poetry reading on 26 June. On 28 June, they will travel to Rayong province, the birthplace of Sunthorn Phu’s father, where they will visit Sunthorn Phu Monument and Museum.

The Sunthorn Phu Award was established on Sunthorn Phu Day, 26 June 2012, by the Ministry of Culture and the Thai Poet Association, in cooperation with Thai AirAsia. Culture Minister Sontaya Kunplome said that the award presentation is part of the roadmap for the establishment of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, 2012-2015, under the plan “Building ASEAN Identity.” It is also meant to honor ASEAN poets and commemorate Sunthorn Phu, Thailand’s best-known poet.

Official invitations were sent to all the ASEAN countries to nominate one poet from each country for the 2013 Award. According to the Chairperson of the Organizing Committee for the Sunthorn Phu Award, Mrs. Savitri Suwansathit, the objectives of the award are to promote regional recognition of outstanding ASEAN poets who are greatly appreciated in their respective countries and to promote the intra ASEAN exchanges and dissemination of their poetic works, through poetry readings and translations, in order to enhance mutual appreciation and respect for the diversity of the ASEAN languages and cultures.

She stressed the importance of poetry, saying that in ASEAN countries, as in all countries in other parts of the world, poetry is one of the highest forms of linguistic and cultural expressions – an integral part of the people’s identity.

A poetic genius and well-beloved commoner, Sunthorn Phu wrote a large number of poetic works of many different kinds throughout his life during four reigns, from the late 18th to late 19th century. Easily understood by all classes, his works became widely accepted. For his bicentennial in 1986, he was honored by UNESCO as one of the world’s great personalities.

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