Southern border provinces are full with natural resources and plentiful forests compared as natural treasure making both Thai and foreign researchers conducted some researches in this area. Similarly, Prof. Dr. Kritsana Kraisin, a Thai pharmacist who has been famous throughout the world as the inventor of antiretroviral drugs, the developer of various types of drugs enabling people throughout the world, whether they are poor or rich, to access antiretroviral drugs equally, and the person who received Ramon Magsaysay Award (Public Service) in 2009, is another researcher who sees potential of southern border provinces and impels establishment of a herbal network called Langkasuka Model inspired by the name of Langkasuka Kingdom in ancient time that was the most prosperous kingdom in Malaya peninsula. It refers to 3 southern border provinces with creation of more complete herbal network with upstream, midstream, and downstream management process.
Langkasuka Model Project has been started since July 2008 when Ms. Kritsana had the first opportunity to visit 3 southern border provinces as a lecturer on herbal medicine production. The duration of such lecture was 3 hours and she had no idea that no villages understood what she was lecturing because they used Malay language. Therefore, she had to make friends and understood these villagers for 6 years. In 2014, she was able to construct a herbal medicine factory started from production method for trial of villagers. When villagers experienced effectiveness and understood on herbal medicine, they have operated in growing spices as materials for producing herbal medicine.
The first type of herb that was promoted in Langkasuka Model Project was turmeric. It was found that high quality turmeric ecotype was grown in the area of Ban Ta Khun District, Surat Thani Province. Department of Medical Sciences, the Ministry of Public Health, already tested and found that this ecotype contained high content of curcuminoid that is considered as the world’s top record. Therefore, Prof. Dr. Kritsana Kraisin brought such turmeric ecotype to the southern border provinces in order to promote local farmers to grow this turmeric ecotype in their areas. Consequently, obtained crops would be distributed to hospitals for producing herbal medicines in capsule form. However, there are many conditions on growing herbs for producing medicine, i.e., they must be produced under organic system with quality crops that are not lower than defined criteria. Consequently, this promotion was not successful during the past years because farmers gave up with these conditions. However, Dr. Kritsana has never been discouraged.
Besides establishing a factory to process and produce medicines in the areas of southern border provinces, Prof. Dr. Kritsana has also mobilized cooperation from private sector and state enterprise to build a mobile truck that is designed as a small processing factory for inspecting crop quality and facilitating farmers not to have any cost on transportation and contact for distributing crops. It meets with her intention that she will bring factory to communities. Currently, the group of farmers who grow turmeric and distribute their crops to Langkasuka Model Project has expanded to the areas of 4 districts of Narathiwat Province including Chanae District, Rueso District, Si Sakhon District, and Sukhirin District. Planting areas must be inspected on its soil and water before obtaining support from the project for growing in well prepared planting areas.
To grow herbs with standard for processing as medicine, it is not easy but it is not too difficult for effort of farmers. When they intend to participate in this project, they have studied from doing and mistakes until they are able to grow quality herbs to meet with standard as defined by factories. Similarly, farmers who grow organic turmeric at Ban Jue Rae, Rueso District, Narathiwat Province, have grown organic turmeric for almost 2 years. From their experiences, they learned that although the cost of organic farming is not high, delicate farming and time is required in order to gain complete crops. In addition, each planting period requires 3 months for leaving soil to be recovered therefore it is the problem that they have to consider how they should do with their prepared planting plots to be ready for the next growing. In the first year, the content of active ingredients in turmeric grown at Ban Jue Rae was not lower than the criteria for producing medicines.
After testing quality, fresh turmeric dug by farmers for distributing to Langkasuka Model will be transported by the mobile truck of the project for processing at the same place, i.e., Herbal Processing Factory (Kapho Hospital) in Pattani. This hospital has gained the construction budget since 2013 but the construction was suspended for 3 years due to insufficient amount of turmeric. In this year, the factory starts its operation again when farmers can produce larger amount of productivity and this Herbal Processing Factory is considered as the midstream process. After accepting fresh turmeric from farmers, turmeric will be cleaned to remove contamination before boiling, slicing, drying in the sun for 3 consecutive days, and baking in the oven for 6 hours. Subsequently, processed turmeric will be ground and contained in vacuum bag for sending to the hospital and containing in capsule for using in local hospitals in southern border provinces.
The operation of Langkasuka Model established by Prof. Dr. Kritsana Kraisin in southern border provinces 12 years ago has been operated until it can overcome the hardest procedure, i.e., making local people see her sincerity in promoting herbal plants growing started from turmeric to Kariyat. Besides making local people to gain higher income, local people are also able to rely on themselves on health that is considered as the ultimate goal of this project. Nowadays, local people in southern border provinces are able to access herbal medicine listed in Thailand National List of Essential Medicines of the Ministry of Public Health with more affordable price. In addition, some farmers also gain additional incomes from growing herbal plants in their small gardens in their backyards. This network has been stably expanded.