SEPTEMBER 19, 1955
BANGKOK, Thailand, Sept. 19—I had a busy day, what with three consecutive meetings of the World Federation of the United Nations Associations.
After our morning session, we had the privilege of seeing the palace rooms where diplomats are received and present their credentials to the King. We also were shown some of the rooms used by the King for special ceremonies and then we proceeded to the magnificent temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The gilding and the porcelains set into these buildings are unsurpassed, I think, for beauty of color, and the gold altar which is built up to hold the beautifully carved Emerald Buddha is very impressive.
One notices the priests here in the streets because they all wear bright yellow garments. They carry bags in which offerings may be placed by the people, since a priest lives on gifts. He is only allowed to eat two meals a day and his life must be very frugal.
Almost every young man, I am told, feels it his duty to be a priest for a short time. He must serve for three and a half months at least, but he may serve longer.
By doing so, he insures the happiness of his elders in the next phase of existence. This is done to make people more conscious of the Buddhist Church and of their obligations to support the church.
Every young man serves two years in the Army as well.
Last evening I talked with the minister in charge of economic development, who told me that his greatest problem was unemployment among the people. Nearly all the people are farmers and rice is the main crop, but they can only produce one crop a year and then the land is too dry.
They are building a big dam in the north for irrigation and hope then to be able to get water on the land and produce two crops a year--not of necessity rice, since they have a big surplus now, but beans or peas or some other vegetable which will keep their farmers busy all the year round and bring in more income.
The government hopes also to generate power and that might make a considerable change someday in the life of the people.
The Thai government arranged to send us to Cambodia on Thursday morning to see the great temple of Angkor Wat. We left the airport at seven a.m. and returned next morning at six a.m. in time for our Friday meetings.
This was a great courtesy on the part of the government and the sixteen among us who were able to take advantage of this added gesture of hospitality are extremely grateful.