in memoriam - Samarn Panichapong (1933-2002)
Dr. Samarn Panichapong or Khun Samarn as he is popularly known in Thailand, graduated from Kasetsart University with a degree in Agriculture in 1957 and joined the Land Development Department (LDD) as a Soil Scientist and became a part of the team to initiate soil survey in Thailand. In 1961, he completed his M.S. degree at the Texas Technological University and completed another M.S. degree at the Rijksuniversiteit te Gent, Belgium in 1965. Soon after, he became the Director of the Soil Survey Division of LDD. While managing the soil survey program, he worked on his thesis and obtained his Ph. D degree from University of Tokyo in 1982.
During the early years of the soil survey program, one of the challenges was to attract young scientists and train them for soil surveys. He managed to obtain funds for his staff to have advanced training in the U.S., Europe and in Australia. In addition, he recognized the need to maintain contacts with soil scientists around the world and to foster this, he organized several regional and international meetings in Thailand and encouraged his staff to participate in similar meetings around the world. Soil Science in the ASEAN countries is indebted to him for his initiative in organizing the many ASEAN soil conferences. He was the de facto soil scientist of the region and won the admiration and respect of decision makers in agriculture of the region. His dream was to organize the World Congress of Soil Science in Thailand. Although his dream was realized, poor health prevented him from playing an important role.
His leadership in the Thai soil survey program has made it the most reliable and effective program in Asia. Making of soil maps and publication of reports is only the beginning of the task, was his instruction. To ensure that the soil survey products were used, he coordinated the development of many publications and audio-visual materials so that all users, from farmers to ministers were aware of the nation’s soil resources. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Khun Samarn had a small but significant role in the advances in Thai agriculture.
His vision for enhancing the productivity of the small farmers made him join the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM) in 1988. Prior to that he was one of the persons responsible for the establishment of IBSRAM and he was directly involved in developing the offices of IBSRAM in Thailand. In 1992, he parted company with IBSRAM when it changed its focus and emphasis and he decided to be semi-retired. A debilitating disease curbed his activities though he tried to remain an active member of the Soils and Fertilizer Society of Thailand. The personality, his convictions and his contributions to soil science both in Thailand and in the region makes Khun Samarn a leader of soil science in South East Asia.
Hari Eswaran, Washington DC, USA