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Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan / The Golden Mount, Ban Batt Community, Bangkok,Thailand.

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Footprint of local art of the Ban Batt Community

Local people in the city are renewing efforts to keep alive the ancient craft of making Batt, the alms bowl used by monks to receive offerings of food. The Ban Batt community, in a small lane off Boriphat road on the outside rim of the old city of Rattanakosin, once drew its income from making monk's bowls. The community is believed to have started as a settlement of refugees fleeing the war with Burma in Ayutthaya. Now only three families keep the tradition alive.

Hiran Suasriserm, 43, a community leader and master craftsman, said the craft suffered when Chinese merchants began making bowls using modern machinery. Many  families were forced to abandon the trade. Hiran's sister who inherited the trade thought about giving it up but Hiran disagreed. He told her if they gave up, the BATT craft would become just a legend. "We must fight to keep it going for the sake of our ancestors who left this cultural heritage for us to preserve", Hiran said.

The craft caught the attention of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. A couple of years ago, Hiran said, the Pom Prap Satru Phai district chief steeped in to promote the community as a conservation community.

That brought in the tourist. Tourist often take back with them bowls as souvenirs. Increased sales helped support the three craft families and their 30 workers. Hiran said the city administration would improve the product to make it suitable for export. They were thankful for their help, otherwise they would now have survived.

Hiran's sister, Mrs. Mayuri, said her eldest daughter has agreed to take over the business. Maneerat Nakharat, 26, would take care of the investment and management side while Mrs. Mayuri would supervise workers. Mrs. Maneerat said she felt attached to the craft. As a young girl, she watched craftsmen beat iron into bowls.

Clean and polish the metal " we have to adopt different business

practises, such as launching a campaign to draw foreign tourist.

We have to let outsiders know as much as possible," she said.

Craftsman Sunee Saengthongkham, 65, said he began as an

apprentice at 15 years old, " you need patience and a love of

the craft to be a good craftsman," he said " I have stayed because

I appreciate the chance to promote Buddhism amd make merit.

" Srinuan Sompong, 56, has also been practicing the craft since

she was young. " The occupation was passed down by my

ancestors."  It's in my blood. I'm proud to do what can hardly be

found elsewhere."Hiran is now confident the craft will survive,

" we'll try to keep  our Batt making craft as long as possible,we

will not abandon our cultural heritage as long as we live."

Mr. Hiran Suasriserm. Tel: 0861049639 / 0868923

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