After 133 years, the curtain came down on the telegraph service yesterday in a ceremony which saw several thousand people bid it farewell.
”The last chapter of 133 years of the Thai telegraph will be in the memory of Thais forever,” was the last message sent by telegraph, by Information and Communications Technology Minister Mun Patanotai from the General Post Office.
It was sent to 40,000 people who had reserved a final telegram, according to the Thai News Agency.
On the final day parents, teenagers, the elderly and first-time users packed the headquarters of Thailand Post Plc in Bang Rak district, waiting for hours to send final telegrams to friends, family and loved ones, and to buy souvenirs.
The number of telegrams sent across the country in the final week of the service, which began 133 years ago with a morse key and ended with the teleprinter, rose to 50,000 _ the total usually sent in six months.
The public enthusiasm was overwhelming, said Wiboon Sereechaiporn, assistant vice-president of the corporate and marketing communications department.
”It is in the character of Thais to often feel regret when things that once belonged to them leave them for good.” Among those turning up on the final day was Krisada Limthongtip, 28, who sent telegrams to his friends and family members.
”It is my first and last time for telegrams,” said Mr Krisada as his fingers constantly punched the keyboard of his smart phone.
”I don’t need to use it. I email and skype. But I came here today to soak up the [nostalgic] feeling,” he said.
Actor Supravat Pattamasuit was also at the General Post Office.
”It is a walk down memory lane and I feel nostalgic. I wish this service would remain. But the world changes,” said the 69-year-old, who sent his message saying ”Long Live the King” by telegraph to Chitralada Palace.
The service peaked in 1995, when 12 million telegrams were sent across the country. Last year, only 600,000 telegrams were sent, most of them by commercial banks and debt-collecting agencies.
Thailand Post finally terminated the service at 8pm after shouldering a loss of 300 million baht a year for five consecutive years.
About 1,200 telegraph service staff will be transferred to new positions.
As the telegraph becomes history, Thailand Post officials and a member of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) remain optimistic that letters will not be next to succumb to speedy communications technology like the internet.
”We once feared letters would disappear when there were telephones. But this form of communication stays and even becomes more valuable in terms of sentimental value,” said NTC commissioner Sethaporn Cusripituck.
”We are not worried. People may send emails but the commercial sector still use mail for their business,” Mr Wiboon said. ”People send more postcards. Letters are now special occasions.”
Tough day to be a first-time telegraph user. 🙂