Lopburi is a sleepy rural town 120 km north of Bangkok. It is steeped in history with civilizations dating back at least 1,200 years. In the mid-1700s, it was briefly the capital of Siam under King Narai. These days it is best known for its legion of monkeys which have turned the town into a local tourist attraction ... and for the AIDS temple.
In 1992 a Buddhist monk, Dr Alongkot Dikkapanyo, turned a normal upcountry Buddhist temple into a small hospice to care for fully-blown AIDS patients. At that time Thailand was finally coming to terms with AIDS, after various governments had tried to cover up the problem in the interests of tourism.
That initial eight-bed hospice grew to the 400-bed complex it is today.
Thailand is a country still suffering under many misconceptions about AIDS. People fear the disease, and HIV sufferers are shunned by their family, friends and community. Three years ago, a bomb was tossed into an AIDS center in the middle of Bangkok. The incident occurred after residents tried to get the center to move because they didn't want AIDS sufferers in their area. Even the authorities didn't mind the bomb being tossed.
Thammarak Niwet Housing Project
We are currently turning the soil on the Thammarak Niwet Project ... and we need your help.
The Thammarak Niwet Project is a housing village for 10,000 HIV and AIDS patients. Like the temple, its aims are twofold -- to provide a resting place for AIDS sufferers where they can be treated with kindness and mercy, and to be a centre for education and information about AIDS.
The land for the project has already been purchased. Construction for Phase One began in February 1998, and hopes to be completed by September of the same year. There will be five phases. The project was begun by Her Majesty the Princess Mother, who donated Bt300,000 in 1995. The project hopes to be completed by December 1999 and will then be presented to His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand, on the occasion of his 72nd birthday.
The entire cost of the project is Bt1,500 million (US$30 million). Phase One will cost Bt400 million (US$8 million) and began in February. Phase Two will begin in March. The phases will run concurrently.
A total of 2,542 houses will be constructed. These will range from one-bedroom houses to five-bedroom houses. The project is asking donors to purchase houses for AIDS sufferers. One-bedroom houses cost Bt120,000 (US$2,400).
The land for the project is situated on Highway 3353, 224 km from Bangkok. It is 70 km from the temple at Lopburi. The entire project covers 800 acres, or 3,200 sq km.
The aim of the project is to create an awareness of the AIDS situation in the Thai community. Outisde of being simply a housing project, it will also be a centre for study, education and information about HIV and AIDS.
Other aims include:
to help people who don't have AIDS live peacefully with people who do;
to assist AIDS patients with kindness and mercy;
to explain to Thais how one can protect oneself against AIDS;
to educate the family of AIDS patients on proper care for them;
to educate the community to accept and live with AIDS patients.
The project will be built on former farmland. There is a large number of trees on the site which will be maintained. The village is near two public roads and a canal.
Electricity will be available via the main roads. Within the project's environs, the main roads (10 m wide) and minor roads (6 m wide) will be made from asphalt. There is an underground bore and a special waste water treatment plant will be constructed.
The project will be divided into two zones.
Zone 1 will be used for visitors and workers who are not HIV positive. It will comprise a meeting hall for up to 500 people, conference rooms, a restaurant, office and mini mart, park, housing for conference participants, and rest areas.
Zone 2 will be used for HIV and AIDS patients and will comprise of housing, hospital, temple, handicraft factory, farming area, herb gardens and exercise areas.
Since July, 1997, the Thai economy has suffered a dramatic downtown. As a result, our project is in jeopardy. Please help us if you can. The number of HIV and AIDS patients in Thailand grows every day at a rate of 500 people. The need for this project is critical.
If you have any questions about the project, E-mail to : firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to know more information go to http://www.aidstemple.th.org/