By Ram Khatry, Sydney
Thailand’s largest and the world’s sixth largest shopping mall is set to host a major festival planned to commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s mega-disaster that claimed nearly 9,000 lives in Nepal.
At a least a million people including Nepalese expatriates, celebrities, diplomats and Nepal-lovers at large are expected to attend the event which the organisers claim will be an invaluable opportunity to market Nepal as a tourist destination.
Perhaps the biggest commemorative event of the April 25 earthquake to be held outside of Nepal, the programme will run from April 21 to 25 at the Central World, a sprawling 550,000 square metre shopping complex in the Thai capital.
Beside many cultural shows, an exclusive exhibition on Lumbini will provide opportunity to hundreds of thousands of Buddhist visitors to know more about the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Nepal.
Embassy of Nepal in Bangkok and Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) Thailand are jointly organising the event, NRNA Thailand’s president Khagendra Dhakal told southasia.com.au.
“At least a million people are expected to visit the Nepal Festival,” Mr Dhakal emphatically said. Asked what he based his estimation on, the communication lecturer at King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok argued that the Central World draws around 200,000 visitors everyday, and the event will go on for five days. He also pointed out that he could not recollect any other Nepal-related festival that was held for as many as five days at a venue of this scale.
Mr Dhakal said the proceeds of the event will go towards NRNA’s 1000-home project for earthquake victims in the worst-hit areas of Nepal.
Some big names from Thailand’s world of celebrities are going to do their bit to promote Nepal during the festival. Cherry Khemapsorn (actor, singer), Chiranan Preetpicha (writer), Vitidnan Rojanapanich (first Mt Everest summitter from Thailand ), Patson (actor), Annothai Cholachapinyo (designer), Beau Wattana Benjasiri (actor) and Krit Kunplin (author of Everest Basecamp) have already confirmed their participation in the event, Mr Dhakal said. They would be sharing their personal experiences and fond memories of their Nepal visit.
The five-day long event, set to commence with a Grand Opening on April 21, will culminate in a Nepal Earthquake Memorial on the morning of April 25, the day a 7.8 magnitude mega-earthquake struck the tiny Himalayan nation last year. It left a trail of such devastation that the young republic’s prime minister this week despaired that at the current rate of reconstruction it would take ‘decades’ to complete the process of rebuilding. The memorial is expected to draw a mass gathering of Nepalese expatriates as well as Thai nationals including representatives from both Nepal and Thai governments.
The event has been envisaged ‘to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the earthquake and express solidarity with Nepal’, Nepal’s ambassador to Thailand Khaganath Adhikari said during a press conference organised on March 18. Held at the Royal Thai Army Club, the press conference in itself was a gathering of local VIPs showing the support of Thai authorities. He further remarked that the Nepal Festival is expected to ‘promote bilateral commercial cooperation between Thailand and Nepal in the field of tourism, trade and investment’. Important bodies like Nepal Tourism Board, Lumbini Development Trust and Thai Nepal Chamber of Commerce will support the event to promote Thai-Nepal bilateral relations.
Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Anil Shakya who is ‘a well-known royal monk’ in Bangkok, said that Thailand’s support to Nepal has been incredible and that thanking them officially from the side of the Government of Nepal government and Nepalese people was an appreciable act on the part of the organizers.