There are many reason for hyphenating Lao-Thai in the title of our book, but a primary reason is to give recognition to Peerapol Pattanapeeradej, the mayor of Khon Kaen back in 2005. It seems like the mayor during his reign wanted to find a new symbol for the city that would resonate with its residents and be something unique and hopefully attract greater numbers of tourists. Petrified wood and dinosaurs, previous tourist calling cards didn’t seem to do it. So after consulting with scholars at Khon Kaen University and with Buddhist monks, Khon Kaen Municipality officials under the leadership of Peerapol chose Sinxay to be the new symbol of the city in 2005. We believe he and his staff made an honest attempt to bring back a renaissance of Sinxay In Isan. In the introduction to their project application for funding from the national government in Bangkok, Khon Kaen Municipality officials wrote that Sinxay was an important cultural heritage reflecting the wisdom of the ancestors of all Isan and Lao people, with the story transmitted in many ways: through reading, moral and local shadow puppet theatre performances and paintings. Through the Sinxay project, their goal was to encourage children to not only to learn the story of Sinxay, but also to have them embrace the virtues embodied in Sinxay,such as honesty, courage, sacrifice, and especially katanyu (gratitude).
In the years following that decision, Khon Kaen Municipality officials implemented a multifaceted plan to promote Sinxay through teacher-developed curricula taught in schools, a sports day, specialized programs held throughout the year, and lampposts designed for the city center featuring Sinxay and his two brothers, Sangthong and Siho , as decorative finials. In February 2011, just one year after the first Sinxay Day in Vientiane, a three-day event promoting the importance of Sinxay was held in the new Central Plaza Mall, in downtown Khon Kaen, where multimedia performances related to Sinxay were staged, and students displayed their their artwork. (See Figure 3.5) The city organized this event in conjunction with Khon Kaen University andMaha Sarakham University faculties.
We just checked Thailand’s official tourism site when writing this post and when we did a search within the province of Khon Kaen for anything about Sinsai (an alternative spelling of Sinxay) it came up with only one hit, Wat Sanuan Wari. That seems a little strange since it’s usually Wat Chaisi that gets most of the recognition, but there are no other Sinxay references. When we were doing some of our research In Isan we spent time in downtown Khon Kaen asking a wide variety of individuals walking on the city streets decorated with lamppost finials of the three brothers if they knew what they represented, and no one knew anything about Sinxay. Peerapol Pattanapeeradej is no longer mayor and it would be an interesting study to see what impact their investment in the Sinsai project had on residents of the municipality, especially the intended audience, the youth of Khon Kaen.
Above is a photo taken of Peter, formally meeting with Peerapol Pattanapeeradej back in 2010. You can see the mayor proudly handing over several small books on Sinxay published by the municipality. Below are different shots of the statues of the three brothers, both as finials and as statuary, and a flyer of the three day Sinxay event.