The US Consulate General…60 Years On
The consulate is an important part of development in Chiang Mai, presently and in times past. Having opened on 10th Dec 1950, the history between Chiang Mai and the Consulate General has been a lengthy, and close, one.
The consulate offers more than just visa applications to Thai citizens, it also provides emergency assistance to American citizens involved in situations concerning serious injury or incarceration. This means if you lose 10,000 baht in a gambling match, don’t bother asking for help, unless you’ve somehow ended up in jail. But if you want to get married, have a document notarised, get help with finding a lawyer or even check (with fingers crossed of course) for tax refunds, then this is where you go.
Once the royal residence of the last prince of northern Thailand, Chao Kaew Nawarat, the US Consulate General buildings are historic landmarks. The property was previously known as the Wang Chedi Ngarm, or Beautiful Pagoda Palace, hence the traditional architecture. Chao Dara Rasmi, the Princess Consort of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn Rama V, was the first person of import to take up residence in the compound. Other royals followed, building homes on the grounds now occupied by the consulate. In 1934 Prince Kaew replaced the teak house of the Princess with a then popular Anglo-Burmese style home which now serves as the residence of the consul-general. The reign of royals residing in the compound ended in 1939 with Prince Kaew’s death.
Over the years, thousands of teachers, missionaries, academics, business people and NGO workers have helped to develop the relationship between America and Chiang Mai. The consulate estimates the number of Americans living in the 15 Northern provinces that comprise the consular district, at approximately 7,500. The purpose of the consulate is to provide a connection between countries, as well as to strengthen the community and economy in Chiang Mai. Collaborative education and health projects have been at the forefront of these undertakings and form the building blocks of community in Chiang Mai.
The consulate has also taken major steps to stop drug and human trafficking in Chiang Mai, collaborating on this front with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) as well as the organisation USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Their work together aims to slow the flow of illegal drugs and human movement through Chiang Mai’s borders.
The current Consul General, Michael K. Morrow, will end his term at the end of this month and will be replaced by Susan Stevenson, a former Chief Information Officer from the Bangkok Embassy. Michael and his wife Shannon have been incredibly active in the local community over the past three years, and shall be sorely missed – especially his incredibly complex and competent Thai speeches…and his love of challenging local media and the municipality to football matches!
After such a long relationship with Chiang Mai, it is no wonder the consulate is home to several ghost stories linked to its historic residence. There is an old rumour about a ghost that makes occasional appearances and inhabits the Consul General’s residence. Perhaps it will appear to send its fond farewell to the Morrow family – we at Citylife also wish them both all the best in their next adventure and look forward to meeting Susan Stevenson and her family.