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Bead rush in Chumphon

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To scholars, the ancient beads discovered in Chumphon are important clues to understanding our region’s history. To many others, however, they are a source of quick wealth. 

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Ancient beads are made into colourful jewellery. With each bead fetching up to 5,000 baht, the discovery of the artifacts has led to a rush of prospectors looking to cash in. PHOTOS BY AMNART THONGDEE

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Bead rush in Chumphon

Khao Sam Kaeo, just north of the city of Chumphon in Thailand's upper South, is one of the hot spots for scholars studying our region's ancient past.

If you look at the map, the community lies in at one of the narrowest points between the Gulf of Thailand on one side and the Andaman Sea on the other.

Researchers believe it was on a significant trade route and Khao Sam Kaeo itself was a production centre for beautiful beads that with were traded with its regional neighbours.

Large quantities of ancient beads and other artifacts have been found there. Under the law, all such ancient artifacts belong to the state, but authorities have found the law almost impossible to enforce.

With prices for high quality small beads approaching 5,000 baht, Khao Sam Kaeo and similar areas in Chumphon province are being overrun by poor fortune hunters.

Illegal digging for ancient beads is especially rampant during the rainy season when the rain water washes away the topsoil, exposing the beads, says Theerapon Somsri, assistant director of the Chumphon National Museum.

State agencies face difficulty pinpointing the sources of the beads because many locations are on private land, he said. Some landowners in Khao Sam Kaeo are known to charge people 40 baht a day to dig on their land for the beads.

"The price varies depending on the physical features and type of bead," Surasak Intharaprasit, a bead prospector, said.

"A striped ball bead fetches at least 3,000 baht. The beautiful ones can go for 5,000 baht apiece," he said.

Mr Surasak said he had dug up almost 200 beads in Chumphon in the past two months.

"Digging for beads is better than doing construction work. Bead prospecting is the same as searching for gold. It is a matter of luck," he said.

Adapted from a story in today's Bangkok Post by Amnart Thongdee. You can read the full, much longer story here:

ancient – very old ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ
bead – a small, usually round, piece of stone, glass, plastic, metal, etc. with a hole in it, that you put on a string or chain with other beads and wear as jewellery ลูกปัด
fetch – to be sold for a particular amount of money ขายในราคาหนึ่ง
discovery – an act or the process of finding somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before การค้นพบ
artifact – an object that was made a long time ago and is historically important, e.g., a tool or weapon  โบราณวัตถุ
rush – a sudden large demand for something ความต้องการอย่างสูง
prospector – a person who searches an area for gold, minerals, oil, etc. ผู้สำรวจ, ผู้สำรวจแร่ธาตุหรือน้ำมัน
cash in – to gain an advantage for yourself from a situation, often in a way that other people think is wrong or immoral  ได้เปรียบ, ได้ประโยชน์จาก, ได้กำไรจาก
hot spot – a place where there is a lot of activity
scholar – someone who studies a particular subject and knows a lot about it, especially a subject that is not scientific นักวิชาการ
ancient – very old ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ
community – the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
narrow – not wide; having a small distance from one side to the other, especially in comparison with the length แคบ
researcher – a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it นักวิจัย
significant – important สำคัญ
trade –  the buying and selling of goods and services การค้าขาย
route – the roads, paths, waterways, etc., used to go from one place to another เส้นทาง
production – the process of growing or making food, goods or materials, especially large quantities การผลิต
neighbour – someone (or towns, cities, countries) who lives or is located near you  เพื่อนบ้าน
quantity – a particular amount of something  ปริมาณ, จำนวน
state – government รัฐบาล
authorities – the police, military or people in official government organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules เจ้าหน้าที่ของรัฐ (ตำรวจ ทหารหรือผู้มีอำนาจ)
enforce – to make sure laws are obeyed บังคับให้ใช้,  บังคับให้ทำ, ใช้กำลังบังคับให้ปฏิบัติตาม
approach – to move or come closer เข้าใกล้
overrun – to fill or spread over an area quickly, especially in large numbers บุกรุก,ล่วงล้ำ, รุกล้ำ
fortune – luck โชค
illegal – against the law ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
rampant – existing, happening or spreading in an uncontrolled way รุกลาม อาละวาด กำเริบ รุนแรงจนควบคุมไว้ไม่ได้
expose – to uncover เปิดออก
museum – a building where objects of historical, scientific or artistic interest are kept พิพิธภัณฑ์
pinpoint – to discover exactly where something is หาตำแหน่ง
source – the place something comes from or starts at, or the cause of something แหล่งกำเนิด
location – where someone or something is ที่ตั้ง,ทำเล
vary – to be different in different situations  ปรวนแปร, เปลี่ยนแปลง, แตกต่าง
physical – relating to the way that someone or something looks ทางวัตถุ, โดยรูปร่าง
feature – something important, interesting or typical of a place or thing คุณสมบัติ
stripe – a long narrow line of colour, that is a different colour from the areas next to it  ริ้ว, แถบ, แถบสี
construction – the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง

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