Jan. 14, 2016


Vira Rojpojchanarat

Thailand

Vira Rojpojchanarat

Minister of Culture, Thailand

"Thai culture is especially dynamic because Thai people are able to adapt to the quickly changing world."

BIO

Vira Rojpojchanarat has been working in the cultural sector of the royal Thai government especially in the fields of archaeology and restoration since 1978. From 1999 onwards, he has taken key official executive positions, namely, Deputy Director-General of the Fine Arts Department, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Advisor to the Prime Minister, and is currently the incumbent Minister of Culture. He was awarded degrees in architecture and public administration from Thailand’s top universities, including Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University.

How is the Ministry of Culture promoting Thai films outside of the country?

The Thai government has placed a huge importance on the film industry because it increases revenues for the country, while also boosting tourist numbers and the image of Thailand abroad. We also have the National Board of Film, which is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, and it aims to be one of the world's most famous locations for film productions as well as promoting the Thai film industry both locally and abroad. We have produced more than 746 films in Thailand, generating about $35 million in 2014. Apart from film production, we also promote post-production and we have been present in many world famous film festivals, like Cannes, Tokyo, and Shanghai to promote the concept of Thai films.

Earlier this year you were involved in a campaign to encourage Thai citizens to wear more traditional clothing. How important is this to preserve national identity?

It is very important. Miss Thailand has been awarded the best national costume in the Miss Universe competition five times, which is why we are proud. Thai silk is a great product; we have high-quality material and designs. There have been many developments and evolutions over hundreds of years in traditional Thai clothing. Jewelry designers in Thailand are also very famous. Queen Sirikit supports Thai dress and textiles, especially traditional and authentic dress for boosting the income of local communities. We have heritage day every Tuesday, when we promote Thai dress for officials to wear across the country. This is symbolic and not compulsory, but by dressing in our traditional attire—at least once a week—we show that we are serious about preserving our national identity.

How is Thai culture defining itself in the context of globalization?

Thai culture is especially dynamic because Thai people are able to adapt to the quickly changing world. We assimilate into new cultures and we can easily and effectively adjust ourselves, which is how we are able to thrive in the modern era. We maintain the best aspects of foreign cultures and adjust them to suit our own. Cultures around the world are changing by the day and we are playing a part in developing them. Thai people must know that there are traditions that we need to preserve, but that we must also adjust into a new way of life. For example, with our cuisine, perhaps it is no longer possible to prepare food using traditional Thai methods of cooking, but we try to maintain the taste as it was in the past. We want Thai children to be aware off Thai-ness and also to be aware of the modern world at the same time. We want them to strike a balance between old and new and to recognize, as we do, that the world is changing.

What role does culture play in bringing in tourism revenues for the country?

We expect that we will have around 30 million visitors to Thailand in 2015, which will generate around THB2.2 billion. Tourists are not only attracted to natural places like beaches or mountains, but also visit cultural attractions. Historic buildings, towns, or museums play a big part in tourists' agenda when visiting Thailand. The Ministry of Culture proudly manages our museums, historic parks, World Heritage temples, as well as festivals. We expect that this year there will be 8.2 million visitors to the World Heritage sites and museums in the country. We recently launched a tourist application, which introduced QR codes to museums to offer an easier and smarter experience for visitors at museums, and also audio guides. We expect the number of visitors will increase from 5 million to 8 million this year with the promotion and marketing of the application.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

Our goal is to prepare for the ASEAN community; we have established the ASEAN Cultural Center this year to promote the understanding of ASEAN in Thailand. We expect participation from the private sector, as we have introduced incentives such as a tax deductible campaign if private entities donate to cultural organizations or agencies. We also promote and provide support for folk artists and performers to help them succeed in the modern era, by generating more jobs for them. We collaborate with other agencies, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and also the Ministry of ICT. When we promote Thailand globally, it has to be a joint effort. For the promotion of culture, we are going to do it not only in ASEAN, but across Asia, Europe, and Africa, and even in South America. We have to all work together on this but it is the duty of this Ministry to inspire people to love our culture and our values.

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