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History of the Informal Northern Thai Group
The Informal Northern Thai Group came into being on the evening of Saturday, December 15th 1984, when eleven Chiang Mai residents met, discussed its formation, and heard the first lecture.
Founding a group had been talked about for some years, but an earlier planning meeting had come to nothing as participants differed radically on how it would function. In the Seventies, the INTG's predecessor, the Northern Thai Society, [see p.3], had a brief and eventful life but although interest was keen and attendance high, problems of organization and registration led to its demise. It was decided at the December 1984 meeting that the extraordinarily varied research being done in and around Northern Thailand made it worth trying again to arrange regular talks. The participants also agreed that the group's best chance of longevity lay in making its organization flexible and informal.

In the minutes issued after the first meeting, it was noted that there was a wish to found "a small informal group, mainly of professionals; anthropologists, sociologists, naturalists, etc., with interests in Northern Thai culture, with the aim of meeting to exchange information and ideas, attend and discuss talks, pool or make available materials [mainly written] concerned with matters of mutual interest centering on Northern Thailand but extending to Thailand as a whole and Southeast Asia."

As time passed, 'membership’ of the group became open to anyone attending its meetings. No fee was charged; expenses in the early years were covered by a small sum [Baht 20] contributed by those attending the talks. The Group has been run by a committee of volunteers, with the post of Convenor held by whoever can be persuaded to take it. The Treasurer and Archivist, on the other hand, have continued in office throughout the Group's twenty-one years. 

Meetings are usually held on the second Tuesday of each month, exceptionally at the American Alumni Association and Payap University plus other venues, but otherwise at the location the Group has come to regard as its home, the Alliance Française on Charoen Prathet Road. Thanks to the donation of funds originally contributed to the Northern Thai Society, the Group has been able to buy a few electronic media aids. It has also collected a complete set of Siam Society Journals, almost certainly the only one in Chiang Mai, and this is now being held at the Payap University Archives on Keonavarat Road.

The Founding Fathers and Mother of the INTG were: Hans Bänziger, John Cadet, Louis Gabaude, Garnet Hoyes, Harald Hundius, Ingrid Hundius, Richard Lando, Hans Penth, Howard Radley, Ron Renard, and John Shaw.

For a lively interview with some INTG informal committee members, see:
Talking for 30 Years: The Informal Northern Thai Group

The current committee members include: Hans and Saengdao Bänziger [Treasurer and Accountant], John Cadet, Louis Gabaude [Secretary], Ken Kampe, Reinhard Hohler, Ron Renard, Gary Suwannarat, and Rebecca Weldon [Convenor]. The INTG website has been first generously created and run by Daniel Peterson, then run by Brian Hubbard [former Convenor], Daniel again, and now by Clarence Shettlesworth. The Group intends to continue to offer talks that will contribute to a better understanding of the region's cultural heritage and ongoing development, and warmly invites researchers and others wishing to share their knowledge to contact the Convenor, Rebecca Weldon <rebecca.weldon@gmail.com>, and/or the Secretary, Louis Gabaude <gabaudel@yahoo.com>, or any other committee member.

A Note on the Northern Thai Society: 1972-74*
The original idea for the foundation of the Northern Thai Society [NTS] came from Roy Hudson in 1972, by then a resident of Chiang Mai for twelve years. He realized that he had met many other resi­dents socially, but hardly knew anything of the work any of them were engaged in. Major Hudson thought it might be possible to form a society and invite members, other residents, and interesting visitors to give talks about their work or subjects concerning Northern Thailand. An informal meeting was held at his home on July 7th 1972, and a committee was nominated to go ahead with the drafting of rules for an association similar to that of the Siam Society. The committee consisted of: Col. Phoon Asanachinda [Chair], Major Akhom Pattiya [Vice Chair], Major Roy Hudson [Secretary], Dr. Tom Scovel [Trea­surer], Dr. Hans Penth and Dr. Malcolm Shouls [Journal Editors], and Dr. Thaemsook Numnonda.

One indication of the interest the group generated was its membership, 163 persons comprising some twelve nationalities, all willing to pay Baht 200 annually for the privilege, at a time when the Society could provide accommodation for one of its visiting speakers in the city's best hotel, the Rincome, for Baht 198 a night.

Detailed records of the Society's activities have been mis­laid, but the Secretary remembers that an estimated 20 lectures were given, with topics such as:
  • Wat Phra Yuen in Lamphun [Alexander Griswold]
  • Western gate of Chiang Saen [Hans Penth]
  • House construction in a hilltribe village [Richard Davis]
  • An unrecalled historical theme [Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda]
  • Spirit Cave in Mae Hong Son [Chester Gorman]
  • The Lahu [Robert & Eugene Morse]
  • Three states stolen from Siam by Great Britain [Kachorn Sukhabanij]
  • Foreign words adopted into the Thai language [Tom Scovel]
  • Buddhism [Venerable Phra Nyanyavachiro]
  • Meo New Year, a color film [William Geddes]
  • Family planning in a Mae Chaem village [Christine Dunster]
  • Blood-sucking moths [Hans Bänziger]
The Northern Thai Society became inactive in 1975 due to the lengthy procedures and difficulties in registration, as well as the departure of some of the committee, and personal time constraints. The final talk was given by Hans Bänziger. The NTS funds deposited in a bank account continued to accrue compound interest over a period of many years. With the knowledge and consent of some of the original members still resident in Chiang Mai, it was agreed that the balance of Baht 84,918.62 should be donated to the Informal Northern Thai Group, a body with similar aims, through the office of the Honorary British Consul in Chiang Mai, John Shaw.
* This brief account of the Society's foundation and activities derives from notes kindly supplied by its initiator and secretary, Major Roy Hudson.

27 years of Talks at the Informal Northern Thai Group
Few parts of the world provide as rich a field for research as Southeast Asia, which makes selecting a handful of talks to give the flavor of the evenings the Group has enjoyed in the past twenty-one years rather difficult.

Regular participants are likely to remember particular meet­ings for different reasons. At first glance, for example, the question of how Thai children learn their classifiers doesn't seem inviting, as the size of the audience - six or seven persons - indicated. Yet that demonstration of how the problem of data gathering was approached and dealt with provided an evening of exceptional interest. On the other hand, journalist Bertil Lintner's description of his unique journey across war-torn Upper Burma with wife and newborn baby was obviously going to be out of the ordinary. And that was the experience a standing-room only audience was treated to. Intriguing, too, to hear the latest on Bronze Age Ban Chiang in Udon ThaniProvince, with Joyce White - a student of the late and regretted Chet Gorman - treading delicately around the controversial subject of that scholar's datings.

Of course, from time to time we've been taken out of our immediate area - to hear a surprisingly relaxed survey of life under the
then-living Great Leader of North Korea; to see a film about the interior of Borneo, made by a woman who had not initially intended to go there, she just stepped off a tour boat and into a pirogue and there she was, so to speak, for the next couple of years; and rather more recently, out to Africa to take a look at the wildlife in Botswana.

Other talks which took us beyond the remit of our stated regional interests have included - ‘My Car-isma’, a study of car culture in modern Japan, ‘Transvestism, transexuality and sex-change operations’, delivered to a standing-room only audience by the occupant of the world's only Chair in Transexuality, ‘The Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse Dilemma’, and ‘Intervention Radiology as a Substitute for Surgery’. At least no one can complain about the narrowness of the range of subjects offered.

Notwithstanding these occasional digressions, the scope of the research being done in the region has been well represented:
  • Illegal hilltop burial site excavations in Tak [the first talk]
  • The Northern Thai village of Ku Daeng
  • Problems of studying Northern Thai history
  • Wats in Lanna
  • Bio-diversity and conservation on Doi Suthep
  • Olde Chiang Mai days
  • Phra Malai and Thai Buddhism
  • Lisu actors and foreign film makers
  • Teaching philosophy in a Thai university
  • The Expedition Mekong 2002 in perspective

Here is a chronological list of the topics and speakers for all INTG talks from December 1984. All records have been grouped in decades. 1984 - 1989, 1990 - 1999, 2000 - 2009, 2010 - to date.

Click on one of the dates below to see the list of talks for that period of time.
     1984 - 1989                     1990 - 1999                 2000 - 2009                2010 - 2019