<DIV class=storyheadline><A href="http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020822/ap_wo_en_ge/thailand_obit_somporn_1">http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020822/ap_wo_en_ge/thailand_obit_somporn_1</A></DIV>
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<DIV class=storyheadline>Founder of Thailand's first monkey school dies at 62 </DIV><!-- Yahoo TimeStamp: 1030013496 -->
<DIV class=timedate>Thu Aug 22, 6:51 AM ET</DIV>
<P><!-- TextStart --><FONT size=-1><I>By SUTIN WANNABOVORN, Associated Press Writer</I></FONT>
<P>BANGKOK, Thailand - The founder of Thailand's first monkey-training school, and a pioneer in using monkeys to pick coconuts commercially, has died.
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<P>Somporn Saekow died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack, shortly after giving a final demonstration of his craft to a group of tourists at his Monkey Training School in the southern Surat Thani province, his family said Thursday. He was 62.
<P>Somporn's daughter, Somjai, said her father had complained he was feeling unwell before the demonstration but had "forced himself to smile and carried on with the show."
<P>Afterward, she found him lying on the floor. He died later at a local hospital.
<P>Somporn began teaching monkeys in 1957, though it wasn't until 1993 that he opened his school. He quickly found a niche market during the economic boom years when labor was scarce and expensive.
<P>While a human is unable to pick more than 100 coconuts a day, monkeys can collect at least five times as many because of their agility and dexterity. They are used elsewhere in Southeast Asia to pick coconuts.
<P>Somporn charged 6,000 baht (dlrs 240 at 1993 exchange rates) for a six-week course to individuals who wanted their monkeys trained. The owners then rented their animals to coconut orchard managers for a fee.
<P>Later, he opened the school for groups of tourists curious to see monkey training close up.
<P>Somporn had no formal education but was decorated by Thailand's royal family for his skills.
<P>In an interview in 1994, Somporn said monkeys were not very clever. "So to teach the stupid you have to make yourself stupid like them," he said.
<P>Somporn became a household name when his favorite monkey, Khai Nui, carried the Surat Thani provincial flag during the opening ceremony of the National Games in 1993.
<P>Khai Nui, who has appeared in several television commercials, was with Somporn until his last moments, Somjai said, adding the the monkey seemed to know his master had died and was very depressed.
<P>Somporn will be buried on Monday with royal honors in Surat Thani, 530 kilometers (330 miles) southwest of Bangkok. Buddhists usually cremate the dead, though burial is also permitted. </P><p><br><hr size=1><b>Do You Yahoo!?</b><br>
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