Plodprasop to portray ex-king at water summit

Stage show disrespects Mangrai, critics charge

Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi will don full costume and take to the stage in front of international delegates as part of the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Chiang Mai, but denies it will be "inappropriate".

In the show on Sunday at Wiang Kum Kam - a restored ancient city in Chiang Mai - Mr Plodprasop will take the lead role of King Mangrai, founder of the Lanna Kingdom who built the city as his capital before moving it to Chiang Mai.

Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi poses in full costume as King Mangrai, founder of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the Lanna Kingdom in the late 13th century.

Mr Plodprasop said the show will tell the tale of uncontrollable flooding in Wiang Kum Kam. The flooding prompted the former monarch to dig a moat around his kingdom in Chiang Mai and link it with the Ping River as a form of effective water management.

Hundreds of supporting actors will also be involved, and a full set will be erected on stage.

However, the planned show has come under fire from a heritage group which says it is inappropriate and distorts history.

Mekong-Lanna Cultural Preservation Network adviser Niwat Roikaew says the script is disrespectful to the former king and northern people.

He also says some of the events which will be depicted in the show are not factually correct.

"Portraying himself as King Mangrai is very inappropriate. He seems to be disparaging a person highly respected by northern people," Mr Niwat said.

He is also receiving heavy flak on social networks where pictures of him in full costume have been posted. One netizen asked: "I do so pity the country. What is our deputy premier doing?"

However, Mr Plodprasop insisted the show would be truthful. "I'm only one performer among hundreds, but I can confirm the play will not distort history. Those who say otherwise are lying," he said.

The summit began Tuesday at Chiang Mai's International Convention and Exhibition Centre and will conclude on Monday.

Opponents of the government's 350-billion-baht water management scheme plan to hold a protest nearby.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Tuesday the summit was an academic meeting on water resources and did not concern the water management scheme.

Mr Plodprasop was eager to pose for photographers at the opening day of the Water Summit in Chiang Mai on Tuesday.

PM's Office Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan asked the protesters to stay away. "I ask activists to put the national reputation first because this summit is an academic meeting of global importance," he said.

Representatives from more than 50 countries will attend the summit.

Mr Niwatthamrong said summit participants would share information on water management and Thai authorities would share their experiences from the severe Central Plains flooding of 2011.

Mr Plodprasop, who heads the government's Water Management and Flood Prevention Commission, said Chiang Mai was a major tourist destination and it was not right to stage a protest there, especially if the protesters were not local people.

Mr Plodprasop had earlier threatened to have any protesters at the summit arrested. He also called the rally organisers the "rubbish" of the province.

Thai Water Partnership Foundation president Harnnarong Yaowalert said Mr Plodprasop's comments showed the government did not welcome public participation.

"The government places importance on the 350-billion-baht budget without speaking of how its water management failed in 2011," he said.

"People criticised the work of the commission at various forums but the government stands firm that water management by the commission is the best approach."

Conservationist Somkiat Khuenchiangsa said the government was investing an excessive amount of money on standard projects without realising that different regions require unique water management plans.

He said activists would hold discussions and present statements on Sunday to encourage the government to review its water management scheme.

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