Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Sri Charoen Rama - Sam Ngam, Pichit, Thailand

"My boy got out of the cinema business and then started playing politics," said Jian Ploykittakul, sitting in the cool of her farm equipment supply shop. A steady flow of customers entered the cavernous store while we talked, handing Jian cash in exchange for various farming devises and inputs.

A woman awaits transport in front of the Sri Charoen Rama

“The cinema business was a good business for a while," she continued, "before everybody started buying TVs. There used to be people running in and out of that place all day long. Thai movies, American movies, Hong Kong movies; you name it, my boy knew how to get people to come watch it. We had four showings per days, plus a mid-night porn screening. Yeah, times were different then; before the highway was built.”

A mesh tarp is strung up over the ground in front of the decaying Sri Charoen Rama Theater.


Jian has been living in Sam Ngam all her life. Her son Tawatchay, now a local politician, was the driving force behind the Sri Charoen Rama, which he opened in 1981. Less than 30 years later and the theater is a road-side relic, plunged into obsolescence by technological advances and the decline of small town life. The Route 115 highway which cuts through the town and the string of ugly, concrete buildings stretching along side it weren’t there when the theater was built. All that land was paddy field for as far as the eye could see. In the 1980’s, Sam Ngam was a typical farming community in Thailand's lower north and the Sri Charoen Rama was the symbolic town center - the most frequented place around aside from the market.

The Sri Charoen Rama's auditorium is of a "bowling lane" design - long and narrow. It's ceiling is also caving in and there's pigeon droppings everywhere.

After 80-plus years in Sam Ngam, Jian Ploykittakul has witnessed many changes in the character of the town. She has seen it morph from an idyllic village to a car-suburb of Pichit city. Her own family has likewise changed course, with her son leaving the business world for a life in the civil services. Though harboring a mother’s pride for her son’s political successes, she expressed a discernible nostalgia for the days when he was the bringer of joy to the Sam Ngam townsfolk; a short-lived reign as the cinema king in this small corner of Pichit province.
To the memory of the Sri Charoen Rama

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