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ASEAN Ground Barred Dove Festival: A Major Cultural Event in Yala Province

April 17, 2014 Destination Thailand No Comments Email Email

Local residents in Yala province take pride in their major cultural event, “ASEAN Ground Barred Dove Festival.” The event attracts many visitors from ASEAN countries and is now included in Thailand’s tourism calendar, which is publicized worldwide.
The festival is held annually in the first week of March, when Javanese doves (Columbidae) from Thailand and neighboring countries compete to make the most melodious and sweetest cooing sounds.

It takes place at Khwan Mueang Park in the town of Yala. The park is filled with thick lush green trees and also has a large lake. Visitors and dove owners come mainly from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The doves are judged by their melody, loudness of their cooing, and pitch. Separate competitions are held for high-pitch, low-pitch, and medium-pitch dove categories. For a dove to be prized, its cooing must be resonant and rhythmic, and it must be able to sing for a relatively long time. If even one of these qualities is missing, the chance of winning lessens. Good cooing doves can command a high price in the market, and those that have won competitions can fetch several million baht.

According to the publication Thailand: Traits and Treasures, published by National Identity Board, in the old days, the raising of Javanese cooing doves was very popular among all strata of society. Two types were popular, one, the “good-looking” dove, which may not have great cooing abilities, and the other, the “cooing” dove, which may not be beautiful but excels in, as the name implies, singing.

Not only residents in Yala, but also those in other southern border provinces – Pattani, Narathiwat, Satun, and Songkhla – have raised Javanese cooing doves. In Thailand, doves, especially the ones that have “good qualities,” are believed to bring good luck to those who raise them.

The ASEAN Ground Barred Dove Festival was first organized in 1986 by the Yala City Municipality in cooperation with other local organizations. Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, where people share cultural similarities with local residents in the deep South of Thailand, joined this event before long. All these participating countries also love and raise doves, which have led to cultural and social connectivity with Thais in the South.

The first ASEAN Ground Barred Dove Festival saw the participation of 1,206 doves and it made a name for Yala, where the raising of Javanese cooing doves and related businesses has been expanding.

In 2014, the festival, the 29th of its kind, saw the participation of more than 2,000 doves. Apart from the dove competition on 1-2 March, a food fair was also held as part of the festivities. The Yala City Municipality believes that the festival will help generate local income, since at least 100 million baht is circulated during this annual competition. It also helps promote relations between local people and those in other ASEAN countries.

The opening of cultural space will lead to better understanding among the people of different faiths who share a mutual interest in cultural activities. Yala is an ancient city with a history of coexisting cultures, where Buddhist, Muslim, and Chinese communities live in harmony, while maintaining their desired cultural identities.

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