For Kosa Pan, Brest took on the air of Siam

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

They came in large numbers to attend the inauguration of the bust of Kosa Pan, in Brest. Hundreds of Thais and Brestois hailed the memory of the ambassador who landed 333 years ago in the city of Ponant, before going to meet Louis XIV at Versailles. So much so that the rue de Siam proudly bore his name on February 15. Going up to the Town Hall, draped in costumes of all colors, the Thai delegation made percussion and songs resound in the main artery of the center. And after a time of speeches in the town hall, Bretons and Thais joined the Capuchin workshops to share their culture, around dance and combat sports.

The Venerable Nyanadharo, cap fixed on the head, crosses the rails of the tramway, at the bottom of the rue de Siam. In his footsteps, the Venerable Fred and Bhante Lakkhano hold tight the folds of their monk's robes against the wind. The three Theravada masters are followed by members of the Thai Association of French Teachers (ATPF). Together they head to the cable car station. In front of it, at the corner of Ducouédic, Louis-Pasteur and Jean-Moulin streets, more than 200 people gather around the Thai ambassador to France, Sarun Charoensuwan and the mayor of Brest, Fr

Ançois Cuillandre. The latter have just unveiled the bust of Kosa Pan, surrounded by flowers. A bronze statue, 1,20 meters high and screwed on a granite base, in homage to this ambassador of the Kingdom of Siam, who landed here in 1686, before going to meet Louis XIV at Versailles.

 "Pray for the Spirit of Kosa Pan"

The Thai sculptor, Watchara Prayoonkum, and the plinth cutter, Christophe Chini, welcome Venerable Nyanadharo with a smile. This one has just made its way through the crowd to bless the work. A task initially granted to the Vice-Patriarch of Thailand, Somdej Phra Maha Teerajarn, accompanied by his monks. But, for reasons of internal politics, the monk had to cancel his visit. Venerable Fred and Venerable Bhante Lakkhano therefore came from Hawaii and Switzerland to replace him at short notice, alongside the Laotian master. “We are going to pray for the spirit of Kosa Pan, to make the link between the French and Thai peoples”, explains the Venerable Nyanadharo. "Most of our prayers are sutras for benevolence and peace of mind," continues Bhante Lakkhano of the International Buddhist Center in Geneva. “Pali language prayers, recited daily for over 2500 years, have a very strong vibration that reactivates a frequency that is already there.”

The three monks have only a few minutes to bring their blessing to the work. Twenty meters away, spectators surround Thai dancers and musicians. Purple, red, yellow, burgundy... They perform their dance steps in a ball of colors, dressed in traditional costumes from the four corners of their country. Some of these artists are members of the Thai Solidarity Association in France, twenty of whose members traveled from the Paris region. Pongpan Suwannant-Legrand is one of them. Round glasses and all dressed in yellow, she catches our attention. Coming from Bobigny and married to a Frenchman, she teaches the language of Molière to restorers and masseuses freshly landed in France. Delighted, she listens to the artists with a smile. "This event is historic for the Thais as for the French," says the teacher, who is also a member of the Thai Association of French Teachers.

Cries of joy and drums in the street of Siam

The ATPF, which offered the bust to the city of Ponant, greatly contributed to the organization of this day. “This is explained, because we sent many young people to study at the Charles de Foucauld high school and at the International Center for Language Studies – CIEL – in Brest, Plougastel and Le Relecq-Kerhuon. So I come regularly to Finistère, ”says Thida Bootharm, the vice-president, who lives in Bangkok. With these words, she begins, followed by about thirty members of the association, the march towards the town hall of Brest.

“We are going to pray for the spirit of Kosa Pan, to make the link between the French and Thai people. » The Venerable Nyanadharo.

The procession enters the rue de Siam to the sound of drums and cries of joy. Thai flags are waved fervently by young and old. Passers-by smile at this cocktail in a good mood. “Brest is a very welcoming and pleasant city. I am impressed to see this main street bearing the name of Siam,” rejoices Chaloamkiet, a 33-year-old Thai man, far from being discouraged by the onset of the storm. Thai teacher-tutor at Inalco in Paris, he stresses “the importance of diplomatic and cultural relations between our countries”.

Arrival Place de la Liberté, the delegation spreads out on the steps for the traditional group photo, on the steps of the Town Hall, before entering the great hall of the town hall, for the time of the speeches. The floor is given to two teenagers to tell, in French and Thai, the adventure of Kosa Pan in the 2017th century. The two young people were not chosen by chance: Malo, with the traditional round hat on his head, did an exchange trip to the Saint John International School in Bangkok in XNUMX. And Jenny, in her light yellow dress from Thailand, is studying at Charles de Foucauld College in Brest this year.

Pol Moal, former director of the establishment, wishes to salute the memory of Princess Galyani Vaddhana. The sister of the previous king, Rama IX, died in 2008. “It is thanks to her, and following her visit to Brest in 1989, that we are celebrating this event. As president of the ATPF, she had decided to entrust us with young Thais. In all, more than a thousand of them benefited from the adventure, and two hundred young Bretons were welcomed in Bangkok. Travel trains youth, they say. But if these trips can also contribute to bringing people together, we will have won! he exclaims.

Rue de Brest in Bangkok, Thai dances in Finistère

Immediately thanked by Thida Boontharm for the Brest welcome, Pol Moal then gave the floor to the Thai ambassador: "I hope that the people of Brest will watch over this bust so that it continues to testify to our friendly relations which will enrich over the years,” he says. François Cuillandre, mayor of Brest and president of Brest Métropole, already salutes “the work accomplished over the past thirty years. And in particular the decision taken on February 15, 2013, to name rue de Brest the street of the French Embassy in Bangkok. Brest and Thailand are united for a long time”, assures the city councilor.

At the end of these exchanges, everyone present is invited to a drink of friendship. While the Bretons revel in Pad Thai and samosas, the Thais line up around the crepe makers, dressed in headdresses, to enjoy the regional specialties.

In the back of the hall, xylophone notes resound. The professional dancers of the Thai Ministry of Culture enter the stage, in their sumptuous costumes, adorned with gilding, jewels and bright colors. Peaked hats or flowerpots on their heads, they perform gestures of Khon and Lakhon, the classical dances of their country.

Thai boxing to unite peoples

Spectators are then invited to join the last place of this day: the workshops of the Capuchins. But, the fault of the gusts of wind which are becoming more and more violent, the delegation will not take the cable car, at the stop. It is therefore necessary to reach the right bank of the Penfeld by car or by tram, to finish the journey on foot…

Once sheltered in the huge complex that once housed the arsenal shipyards, we head to the Fabrik 1801. Inside the restaurant, a ring is set up on tatami mats to host demonstrations of gouren – Breton wrestling – and Thai boxing. Young boxers from the Plouzané club chain the blows on the gaze of a Buddha.

Then comes the turn of Iëlo Siapo Page, whose intensity of movement impresses. La Brestoise, world champion in the discipline, is happy to have been invited to this day. “I feel very honoured. The monks blessed me and assured me that I had a mentality in line with what they thought of Thai boxing. Even if I give blows, I do not seek violence, contrary to certain prejudices. It's about controlling your emotions, being humble." With a smile, the Breton returns to the scene of the festivities. With enthusiasm, she throws herself, arm in arm, into Breton dance steps. Something to delight the Venerable Nyanadharo, for whom "dances and combat sports can unite peoples".

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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