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A Talk With General Anu Sumitra

The army's understanding or compassion for the hill tribe people is limited, and often marked by brutality.

The Army

The Thai army is located in many of the mountain areas where the Akha and other hill tribe live near the borders. While pressure is not exerted on neighboring countries to halt attempts to smuggle drugs into Thailand, villagers are heavily prosecuted for any drug use on a level that is much more stringent than people in low land areas experience. Army camps may be located next to or right in Akha villages. It is not clear where police and army jurisdiction overlap except to say that the army is more present in the mountainous areas.

Maj. Gen. Anu Sumitra

A Brief Encounter

In a brief encounter with the Retired Chief Of Intelligence for the Thai 3rd Army (northern) I was able to ask these questions of Maj. Gen. Anu Sumitra.

Gen: "Are you Matthew McDaniel?"

Matthew: "Yes I am."

Gen: " I thought I recognized the truck - saw you driving in Ampur Mae Faluang."

Gen: "You think you know it all about up there in the mountains. I've been working with that mess for 27 years."

Matthew: "Do you know what the answer is?"

Gen: "No, I don't."

Matthew: "Well the drug situation is getting worse in the villages, everywhere. There are many hilltribe people approaching me about problems, like the wives of the two missing Lahu men from last month. They want to know who they can talk to, if there is someone in the army out of the area that they can speak with? Can there be a liaison?"

Gen: "They can speak with the army THERE."

Matthew: "Can the army and the hilltribe work together?"

Gen: "We can if they are honest."

Matthew: "Is the army honest?"

Gen: "I read all your stuff on the net. I just follow orders. You don't want to talk to me, my job is to get rid of problems for the army."

Matthew: "How can the villagers speak about their needs?."

Gen: "Well, if they don't like it they can get the hell out of there!"

Unfortunately the voice of the Akha is seldom heard.

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