Monkeys in Central Thailand City Mark Their Day With Feast

LOPBURI, THAILAND — A meal fit for monkeys was served on Sunday at the annual Monkey Feast Festival in central Thailand.

 

Amid the morning traffic, rows of monkey statues holding trays were lined up outside the compound of the Ancient Three Pagodas, while volunteers prepared food across the road for real monkeys — the symbol of the province around 150 kilometers north of Bangkok.

 

Throngs of macaque monkeys ran around, at times fighting with each other, while the crowds of visitors and locals grew.

 

As the carefully prepared feast was brought toward the temple, the ravenous creatures began to pounce and were soon devouring the largely vegetarian spread.

 

While the entertainment value of the festival is high, organizers are quick to point out that it is not just monkey business.

 

“This monkey feast festival is a successful event that helps promote Lopburi’s tourism among international tourists every year,” said Yongyuth Kitwatanusont, the festival’s founder.

 

“Previously, there were around 300 monkeys in Lopburi before increasing to nearly 4,000 nowadays. But Lopburi is known as a monkey city, which means monkeys and people can live in harmony.”

 

Such harmony could be seen in the lack of shyness exhibited by the monkeys, which climbed on to visitors, vehicles and lampposts. At times the curious animals looked beyond the abundant feast and took an interest in other items.

 

“There was a monkey on my back as I was trying to take a selfie. He grabbed the sunglasses right off my face and ran off on to the top of a lamppost and was trying to eat them for a while,” said Ayisha Bhatt, an English teacher from California working in Thailand.

 

The delighted onlookers were largely undeterred by the risk of petty theft, although some were content to exercise caution.

 

“We have to take care with them, better leave them to it. Not too near is better,” said Carlos Rodway, a tourist from Cadiz, Spain, having previously been unceremoniously treated as a climbing frame by one audacious monkey.

 

The festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi and held as a way to show gratitude to the monkeys for bringing in tourism. This year’s theme is “monkeys feeding monkeys,” an antidote to previous years where monkey participation had decreased due to high numbers of tourists, which intimidated the animals.

 

Source: Voice of America

Shanghai hit by COVID protests as anger spreads across China

SHANGHAI, Protests simmered in Shanghai early on Sunday, as residents in several Chinese cities, many of them angered by a deadly fire in the country’s far west, pushed back against heavy COVID-19 curbs nearly three years into the pandemic.

 

A fire on Thursday that killed 10 people in a high-rise building in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, has sparked widespread public anger as many internet users surmised that residents could not escape in time because the building was partially locked down, which city officials denied.

 

In Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, residents gathered on Saturday night at the city’s Wulumuqi Road – which borrows its name from Urumqi – for a vigil that turned into a protest in the early hours of Sunday.

 

“Lift lockdown for Urumqi, lift lockdown for Xinjiang, lift lockdown for all of China!” the crowds in Shanghai shouted, according to a video circulated on social media.

 

At one point a large group began shouting, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping, free Urumqi!”, according to witnesses and videos, in a rare public protest against the Chinese leadership.

 

A large group of police looked on and sometimes tried to break up the crowd.

 

China is battling a surge in infections that has prompted lockdowns and other restrictions in cities across the country as Beijing adheres to a zero-COVID policy even as much of the world tries to coexist with the coronavirus.

 

China defends President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-COVID policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system. Officials have vowed to continue with it despite the growing public pushback and its mounting toll on the world’s second-biggest economy.

 

Videos from Shanghai widely shared on Chinese social media showed crowds facing dozens of police and calling out chants including: “Serve the people”, “We don’t want health codes” and “We want freedom”.

 

Some social media users posted screenshots of street signs for Wulumuqi Road, both to evade censors and show support for protesters in Shanghai. Others shared comments or posts calling for all of “you brave young people” to be careful. Many included advice on what to do if police came or started arresting people during a protest or vigil.

 

ANGER NATIONWIDE

Shanghai’s 25 million people were put under lockdown for two months earlier this year, an ordeal that provoked anger and protest.

 

Chinese authorities have since then sought to be more targeted in their COVID curbs, but that effort has been challenged by a surge in infections as China faces its first winter with the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

 

While low by global standards, China’s case numbers have hit record highs for days, with nearly 40,000 new infections reported by health authorities on Sunday for the previous day.

 

On Friday night, crowds took to the streets of Urumqi, chanting “End the lockdown!” and pumping their fists in the air after the deadly fire, according to videos circulated on Chinese social media.

 

Many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.

 

In Beijing, 2,700 km (1,700 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small protests or confronted local officials on Saturday over movement restrictions, with some successfully pressuring them into lifting the curbs ahead of a schedule.

 

A video shared with Reuters showed Beijing residents in an unidentifiable part of the capital marching around an open-air carpark on Saturday, shouting “End the lockdown!”

 

The Beijing government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

 

The next few weeks could be the worst in China since the early weeks of the pandemic both for the economy and the healthcare system, Mark Williams of Capital Economics said in note last week, as efforts to contain the outbreak will require additional localised lockdowns in many cities.

 

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Undersea survey at Khao Lak prior to developing submarine Learning Park

Divers from the Marine and Coastal Resources Department and the Third Fleet of the Royal Thai Navy conducted an undersea survey of seabed at Khao Lak, in the southern province of Phang-nga yesterday (Saturday), prior to the development of an undersea Learning Park.

 

The Khao Lak undersea learning project has been jointly planned by the Royal Thai Navy, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and the Khao Lak Foundation, among others.

 

The design of the park is now being undertaken by the Marine Resources Conservation Division. The concept envisages a lotus sculpture, called Andaman Lotus, decommissioned military trucks and boats and “unused” Harley Davidson motorcycles being placed together at a designated undersea location, surrounded by a wall of artificial coral.

 

It is reported that HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya joined one of the diving missions to survey the area for the undersea park.

 

According to an official at the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, the Princess has shown a keen interest in the park project and has ordered that it be incorporated into the Royally-sponsored protect to conserve corals and other marine life.

 

The project is expected to be completed and formally opened next March by the Princess.

 

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service