DEJA VU – THAI TREATMENT OF HILL TRIBE PEOPLES VIS-A-VIS U.S. TREATMENT OF NATIVE AMERICANS
The Thai government is once again moving against the Hmong people at Wat Tham Krabok. A commentary on the Op-Ed page of the Bangkok Post states that “A community crackdown like the one under way at the temple would never be tolerated anywhere else in Thailand. Police and authorities must get the crooks, for sure. But they should look in the children’s eyes too – they deserve at least some education.” The piece went on to call the government campaign a “brainwashing”.
According to Peter Rosset, Executive Director for Food First, “The Hmong ‘hill people’ in the mountains of Northern Thailand seem to constantly be targeted by negative policies and imagery. In the 1960s U.S. funded anti-drug programs and the Thai military forced some of them to stop growing opium and helped them start intensive farming of commercial crops on low fertility mountan slopes, where they sank ever deeper into poverty. Others lost their land and moved into national park areas where they practice tradional shifting cultivation in an ecologically balanced way.
More recently the Hmong have drawn the ire of urban Thai environmental groups, the World Bank, the Thai government and the Thai military again. Now they are accused of destroying mountain watersheds–critical for lowland and urban water users–by farming them, precisely what they were forced to do by earlier policies. Similarly they are accused of “deforesting” national parks. The unfairness is clear, not only because their present accusers are among those who drove them to do what they are now doing, but also because their traditiopnal shifting cultivation practices are actually the most ecologically sound way to exploit fragile, forested slopes.”
After World War II perhaps 2 million Tribal Hill Peoples, one of which is the Hmong, migrated from southwest China to the border areas of Thailand, Laos and Burma. The black and white photos were taken in China in 1944 by Barney Rosset. The color photos were taken in northern Thailand in 1990 by Astrid Myers.